As difficult as it is to say “no” to funding for education, we don’t believe that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Smart Schools initiative is the right approach for New York.

Proposal 3 on the Nov. 4 ballot, the New York Bonds for School Technology Act, would authorize the state to issue and sell $2 billion in bonds to fund the purchase of computers, tablets and Internet services for schools.

But given the speed at which technology changes, putting such a large investment into computers and software could mean purchasing technology that will be be outdated long before the bonds are paid off. Another negative in this proposal is that a lot of this money would go to building classroom space in New York City for pre-kindergarten programs currently being housed in trailers. Still more would go to the installation of high-tech security systems for some schools.

We were pleased that Auburn schools superintendent Constance Evelyn was one of the people formulating plans on how best to spend the money — and Auburn would receive about $3.5 million under this plan — but concerns have been raised about the apparent conflict of interest of advisory commission member Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google. Should someone with such a huge stake in a technology company be giving the state advice on purchasing technology?

As much as this proposal would likely reap some short-term benefits, we agree with the Empire Center for New York State Policy, which argues that if payments on the bonds would cost about $130 million per year then the state would be better off using that money on direct funding to the neediest school districts.

A better plan would be for the state to look at the overall needs of school districts rather than put this much money into a few select purposes. One expense we would like to see covered is the hiring more teachers, which would directly lessen the chaos in overcrowded classrooms and create an environment where students could get more individual attention.

Rather than have a state-appointed commission decide how to spend $2 billion on borrowed time, we would like to see the state send more money to school districts — and let the people in individual communities decide how best to spend it.

© 2014 The Citizen

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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.