bal-pen3-150x150-8876164Who could be against “smart schools”? 

The answer: not nearly enough New Yorkers to defeat Proposal 3 on yesterday’s statewide ballot, which authorizes $2 billion in state borrowing to finance local school district purchases of computers and other classroom technology; expand schools’ high-speed and wireless Internet capacity; install “high-tech security features”; and build new classrooms for pre-kindergarten programs. 

The “Smart Schools Bond Act” emerged out of the blue in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address in January and was passed with little debate as part of the 2014-15 budget. Although the proposal was never embraced by the Board of Regents or by major public education groups, it was a centerpiece of Cuomo’s K-12 education agenda.

In the final weeks of the general election campaign, the state Democratic Committee sent out a statewide mailing promoting a “yes” vote on Proposal 3, which was also mentioned in at least one of the governor’s campaign commercials.  Just last week, it was disclosed that New York State United Teachers union had committed $200,000 to its own push for support of the bond proposal.

On the other side, the Empire Center led the way in calling for a “no” vote, explaining our position in articles and interviews linked on this website.  The Citizens Budget Commission issued a strong memo taking the same position.  At least 19 newspapers — including all of the state’s largest dailies except The New York Times (which had nothing to say on the subject) – published editorials in opposition to Proposal 3.

However, in the absence of a funded advertising campaign urging a “no” vote, the positive spin embedded in the ballot language apparently was enough to push Proposal 3 to passage by a 62-38 margin. (The borrowing was rejected in 20 out of 62 counties, all upstate.)

As a result of yesterday’s vote:

  • New York State is likely to bump up against its statutory debt cap in three years, even though it has enormous infrastructure needs for which no source of financing has been clearly identified.
  • While rural and suburban school districts decide whether new technology is really among their priorities, New York City won’t hesitate to cash in on its $730 million share of the bond act to pay for pre-kindergarten space and portable classroom replacements.  (By the way, the city has a higher bond rating and much more borrowing capacity than the state, and school construction in the city is already heavily subsidized by state building aid.)

Now that the bond issue has been passed, the Empire Center will be monitoring its implementation.

About the Author

E.J. McMahon

Edmund J. McMahon is a senior fellow at the Empire Center.

Read more by E.J. McMahon

You may also like

In Pandemic Recovery, New York’s Tax Base Is More Fragile Than Ever

New York's exceptionally wealthy state tax base is also exceptionally fragile, due to its heavy dependence on the highly volatile (and portable) investment-driven incomes of Wall Street workers and fund managers. Read More

Not a Moment Too Soon, Bill de Blasio Is Setting a Good Fiscal Example

After months of flailing, floundering and stalling on desperately needed cuts to New York City's pandemic-ravaged budget, Mayor de Blasio just made a smart and appropriate move to save money—in the process defying one of New York's most powerful government employee unions. Read More

What a New Jersey “Millionaire Tax” Really Means for New York

Hoping to jumpstart a bandwagon effect, advocates of soak-the-rich tax hike proposals in New York State are hyping a tax increase in New Jersey as evidence that New York needs to do the same. Read More

On Measuring School Quality, Education Week Misses the Mark

Education Week’s rankings do not measure what counts. New York’s substandard achievement coupled with highest-in-the-nation spending and above-average wealth means that when it comes to school quality, New York fails to pass the mark. Read More

State Forces School Districts To Give Raises—And Layoffs

Months of bad decisions and inaction by New York state officials have put school districts in the awkward position of having to give pay raises to most teachers while laying off others. Read More

Even After Aid Cut, New York Will Spend Most on Education

If New York was a country in 2016—the most recent year for global education spending data—it would have boasted the highest per pupil expenditure in the world, even after subtracting 20 percent of state aid. Read More

NY outlook: worse than 2008-09

#NYcoronavirus: The outlook for New York's economy is the grimmest on record, according to the first post-pandemic lockdown round of credible economic surveys and forecasts. Start with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, whose regional economists today issued a notably pessimistic report based on their monthly Empire State Manufacturing Survey and a broader Business Leaders Survey that take sin the northern New Jersey and metropolitan New York. Read More

Carve-outs prevail in “wage” bill

A “prevailing wage” expansion in Governor Cuomo’s budget is riddled with carve-outs—and new discretionary power for the governor. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

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.