The state should halt new technology funding grants under the 2014 Smart Schools bond act, and revise and “reboot” the program guidelines before resuming, according to a released today by the Empire Center.

The bond act, authorizing up to $2 billion in state debt, was proposed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 to finance technology purchases and classroom construction in school districts. The report, based on an overview of the first three years of applications and approvals under the program, includes the following findings:

  • Smart Schools funds have been approved for a wide range of equipment beyond computers, including purchases such as furniture, stereo systems and sports watches.
  • School districts need only “check a box” to certify they have essential plans to sustain their tech purchases.
  • Implementation has been “sluggish and haphazard,” and less than half of all school districts have been approved for funds—underscoring the lack of urgent need for more state funds to supplement existing aid streams.

“The Smart Schools bond act reflected political priorities rather than careful study,” said Ken Girardin, the Empire Center’s policy analyst and report co-author. “The Legislature should re-evaluate how the program is structured before New Yorkers are put on the hook for any more borrowing.”

The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and do business.

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