New York Bonds for School Technology Act, Proposal 3 (2014)

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Proposal 3
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Type:Bond issue
Referred by:New York Legislature
Topic:Bond issues on the ballot
Status:Approved Approveda
2014 measures
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November 4
Proposal 1Approveda
Proposal 2Approveda
Proposal 3Approveda
Endorsements

The New York Bonds for School Technology Act, Proposal 3 was on the November 4, 2014 ballot in New York as a legislatively-referred bond question, where it was approved. The measure authorized the state comptroller to issue and sell bonds up to the amount of $2 billion. The revenue received from the sale of such bonds are, according to the proposal, used for projects related to the following:[1]

  • Purchasing educational technology equipment and facilities, such as interactive whiteboards, computer servers, desktop and laptop computers, tablets and high-speed broadband or wireless internet.
  • Constructing and modernizing facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and replacing classroom trailers with permanent instructional space.
  • Installing high-tech security features in school buildings.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) proposed the measure in his 2014 State of the State Address.[2]

On April 17, 2014, Gov. Cuomo announced a Smart Schools Commission designed to explore how to invest the two billion dollar bond in school technology upgrades. The commission was composed of three individuals: Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone, and Constance Evelyn, Superintendent of the Auburn School District.[3]

Supporters referred to the bond measure as the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014.[1]

The bond measure was only one act within a school budget and aid bill known as Senate Bill 6356. The total bill also included funding for universal pre-kindergarten, funding for after school programs and procedures related to the Common Core State Standards Initiative.[4] Only the bond act is on the ballot, not the entire bill.

Election results


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This ballot measure article has preliminary election results. Certified election results will be added as soon as they are made available by the state or county election office. The following totals are as of 99 percent of precincts reporting.

 New York Proposal 3
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 1,819,159 61.67%
No1,130,43738.33%

Election results via: New York Board of Elections

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot text appeared as follows:[5]

The SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014

The SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014, as set forth in section one of part B of chapter 56 of the laws of 2014, authorizes the sale of state bonds of up to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000) to provide access to classroom technology and high-speed internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, to add classroom space to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space, and to install high-tech smart security features in schools. Shall the SMART SCHOOLS BOND ACT OF 2014 be approved?[6]

Support

Supporters

Officials

Organizations

  • United Federation of Teachers[7]
  • New York State United Teachers[8]

SB 6356 "Yes" votes

The following New York legislators voted in favor of putting Proposal 3 on the ballot:[9][10]

Note: A yes vote on SB 6356 merely referred the question to voters and did not necessarily mean these legislators approved of the stipulations laid out in Proposal 3.

House

Senate

Arguments

The New York City 2014 Voter Guide included arguments in favor and in opposition to Proposal 3. The following were the guide's arguments in favor:

  • The proposed bond issue would help our children develop the technological literacy that will prepare them to get jobs in this economy.
  • The proposed bond issue would improve facilities for pre-kindergarten programs and provide long-needed replacements for trailers now used as classrooms.
  • We need funding for high-tech infrastructure improvements including wireless connectivity systems for schools and communities and high-tech security systems in schools.[6]

—New York City 2014 Voter Guide[11]

Francisco Moya (D-39), specifically addressing the bond's allocation for replacing classroom trailers with permanent instructional space, argued:

Kids belong in classrooms, not trailers. The classroom trailers used throughout the city pose a health and safety risk for our students. If we are truly focused on the futures of our students, we must provide them with learning environments that expand the mind, not chill the bones. There is no reason why any students in a city as prosperous and modern as New York should be going to class in rusting, thin-walled trailers. New York is a world-class city and our students deserve a world-class education, not classrooms fit for the junkyard. That’s why we’re calling on voters to approve the Smart Schools Bond Act in November – because our schools need to step into the 21st century and this measure will help us get there.

[6]

—Francisco Moya[7]

Other arguments in support of the amendment included:

  • Constance Evelyn, who served on the Smart Schools Commission, argued, “There is a stark difference between a classroom outfitted with up-to-date, advanced technology, and one without. As we prepare our students to compete and find jobs in an economy that places high value on technical literacy, it is of vital importance that all our children have access to the classrooms where they can develop these skills.”[3]

Opposition

Opponents

  • E.J. McMahon, President of the Empire Center[12]

Organizations

SB 6356 "No" votes

The following New York legislators voted against putting Proposal 3 on the ballot:[9][10]

Note: A no vote on SB 6356 meant that a legislator did not want to refer the question to voters and did not necessarily mean these legislators disapproved of the stipulations laid out in Proposal 3.

House

Senate

Arguments

The New York City 2014 Voter Guide included arguments in favor and in opposition to Proposal 3. The following were the guide's arguments in opposition:

  • The state has too much debt already; this $2 billion bond sale would cause the state to go even deeper into debt.
  • If the state is going to issue new bonds, it should be to repair or replace aging infrastructure, including roads, bridges, protection of our drinking water, and/or sewer upgrades.
  • Bonds should only be used to fund long-term projects that will maintain their value for the duration of the borrowing, not for computer equipment which could become obsolete before the bonds are paid off.
  • Even if equipment is paid for, school districts will be forced to allocate money in their already tight budgets to hire skilled staff to run and maintain it.[6]

—New York City 2014 Voter Guide[11]

E.J. McMahon, President of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, called the bond a "boondoggle" and said there were better ways to fund school technology upgrades. He argued:

Ignore the spin. Even New Yorkers inclined to write a blank check for education should think long and hard before they say “yes” to Prop 3.

To start with, New York’s state and local debt burden is already enormous, totaling more than $17,000 per resident.

Passage of this bond proposition would push the state government closer to its statutory debt ceiling — even as Albany struggles to fill funding gaps in long-term capital plans for basic infrastructure like mass transit, roads and bridges.

And while bridges and subways undeniably are long-term investments, buying computers would be a wasteful use of the state’s increasingly scarce capital-bonding capacity.

To justify bonding, the law implementing Proposal 3 assumes that classroom technology financed with school-bond funds will have a “probable life” of eight years…

And even under that unlikely assumption, most of the nifty smart boards, iPads, laptops and other devices purchased under the bond act will be worn out or obsolete long before the debt is paid off — even if the bonds are issued for relatively short average durations of 10 to 15 years…

Most striking is that none of New York’s many public-school-advocacy groups, from school boards to teachers unions, had identified classroom technology as a funding priority before the “smart schools” bond scheme first popped up, seemingly out of nowhere, in Gov. Cuomo’s State of the State speech in January.

The annual payments on $2 billion in bonds could ultimately come to more than $130 million a year. A far better way to “equalize opportunities to learn” would be to spend that money on added annual aid to public and charter schools serving the state’s neediest children. [6]

—E.J. McMahon[14]

Nicholas Tampio, Professor of Political Science at Fordham University, encouraged "other parents and concerned citizens to vote no on the Smart Schools Bond Act." He connected Proposal 3 to Common Core:

How does this relate to the Common Core? New York is currently preparing to administer the Common Core-based PARCC tests. As part of the Race to the Top application, New York committed to administering the tests to students at the same time on computers. The costs of purchasing the computer and bandwidth to take these tests places a financial burden on school districts. This bond relieves that burden in the short-term, which may explain why some superintendents are grateful for the relief it brings.

But make no mistake: This bond helps cement the Common Core in New York schools. The technology makes possible the Common Core tests, and the smart schools review board is made up of three individuals who support the Common Core.

The Smart Schools Bond also consumes resources that could be spent on other educational endeavors. Take class size. There is an extensive literature on how smaller classes leads to higher test scores, better grades, fewer discipline problems, higher graduation rates, and the formation of character traits such as persistence, motivation, and self-esteem. Yet there is overcrowding in all 32 New York City school districts. As school districts scramble to pay the technology costs required to administer the PARCC exams with only partial compensation by the Smart Schools Bond, class sizes will rise throughout the state.

As a parent, I would rather my children have a personal connection with a great teacher than be warehoused in a classroom dedicated to preparing for online Common Core-based tests. [6]

—Nicholas Tampio[15]

Other arguments against Proposal 3 included:

  • Citizen’s Budget Commission’s Vice President Elizabeth Lynam compared issuing bonds for school technology to taking a loan for a vacation. She said, “It's OK to borrow money to purchase a house and you pay that back over 30 years because the house is going to last you 30 years. It's not OK to borrow typically in your personal life for a vacation because that's a short term benefit and you're going to be paying it back for many years to come.”[16]

Media editorial positions

See also: Endorsements of New York ballot measures, 2014’'

Opposition

  • Adirondack Daily Enterprise said, "On Nov. 4, New York voters will have the opportunity to vote up or down Proposal 3, also known as the $2 billion Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014. We encourage them to vote against it."[17]
  • The Journal News said, "The Smart Schools Bond Act holds a laudable goal. But saddling the state with even more debt, especially when educational advocates remain lukewarm about the plan, is ill advised. Let's preserve the goal, but change the vehicle. Vote no on Proposal 3."[18]
  • Newsday said, "The New York Bonds for School Technology Act proposition would allow the state to borrow up to $2 billion to modernize technology in schools and build new pre-K classrooms. However, the computer hardware and devices purchased would become obsolete well before taxpayers repaid the debt."[19]
  • The Post Standard said, "Who doesn't want the best for New York's students? But the price tag for electronic equipment that will be obsolete long before it's paid off isn't the best use of the taxpayers' money. We would urge voters to vote "no" on the bond act."[20]

Controversies

Eric Schmidt and Google

Consumer Watchdog logo 2014.png

Gov. Cuomo (D) appointed Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, to the Smart Schools Commission. The commission is designed to recommend how to invest the bond. E.J. McMahon of the Empire Center insisted that a conflict of interest in such a proposal is very likely. He continued, "[Schmidt] is a vendor. It's pretty clear to be there's a conflict [sic]. This is an incredible blind spot on the governor's part."[21] Jamie Court, President of Consumer Watchdog, and John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Private Policy Director, wrote a letter to Gov. Cuomo. The two criticized the appointment and asked the governor to remove Schmidt. The following is an excerpt from their letter:

Dear Gov. Cuomo,

We are writing on behalf of Consumer Watchdog... to express our deep concern about your appointment of Google Chairman Eric Schmidt to the New York Smart Schools Commission to advise the state on how to invest proceeds from the proposed $2 billion bond act and bring technology into classrooms statewide. Consumer Watchdog calls on you to 1) Preclude Google from providing any of the new technology to the state’s schools given the conflict of interest created by Schmidt’s appointment 2) Remove Schmidt from the Commission immediately given Google’s disregard for students’ privacy and the potential for self-dealing.

It is entirely inappropriate for a top of executive of a company likely to be considered as provider of technology to advise the state on what technology to adopt. This is not the fox guarding the chicken coop, but rather the fox building the coop. The chickens in this case are children whose privacy Google has shown a consistent disrespect for, making Schmidt a doubly distressful choice for the Commission. As this article from Education Week[22] documents, Google is under intense criticism for data mining the email messages of students who use Google Apps For Education, apps that have been available to New York’s 697 public school districts since 2010... It appears that Google’s practices violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Taking advice from the executive of a company engaged in such dubious practices is simply wrong.

As was outlined in this recent Washington Post article[23], Google has become a master of maneuvering behind the scenes to obtain the results desired from regulators and lawmakers...

As the Post explains, “The behind-the-scenes machinations demonstrate how Google — once a lobbying weakling — has come to master a new method of operating in modern-day Washington, where spending on traditional lobbying is rivaled by other, less visible forms of influence. That system includes financing sympathetic research at universities and think tanks, investing in nonprofit advocacy groups across the political spectrum and funding pro-business coalitions cast as public-interest projects.”

Schmidt, who by the way sits on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, is a master of inserting himself into positions where he can drive policy decisions in the direction that Google favors. That is precisely what is happening with the New York Smart Schools Commission and such self-dealing must not be tolerated when it comes to the best interests of New York State’s children...

No one doubts the urgency of bringing technology into our schools. We believe you should be commended for proposing the $2 billion bond that will go before New York voters in November. However, allowing one person from the gargantuan company that so dominates the Internet to play a primary role in shaping the policy is unfair and wrong. We call upon you to block Google from supplying technology under the bond act should it be approved by the voters and for you to remove Eric Schmidt from the Smart Schools Commission immediately...

—Jamie Court and John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog[24]

Matt Wing, the governor’s spokesperson, replied to critics, saying, “The commission [Schmidt] is on is purely advisory and will not be recommending specific products. Instead school purchases will be determined by guidelines set by an independent panel, individual needs of school districts and a procurement process specifically designed to ensure taxpayer dollars go to the best bid. Any representations to the contrary are simply wrong.”[21]

Path to the ballot

See also: Authorizing bond referendums in New York

According to Section 11, Article VII of the New York Constitution, a majority vote was required in the legislature in order to qualify the bond question for the statewide ballot. The measure was required to be passed by the legislature at least three months before the general election. The New York Senate and the New York Assembly both approved S 6356D on March 31, 2014.[25][26]

Senate vote

March 31, 2014 Senate vote

New York S 6356D Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 58 95.08%
No34.92%

Assembly vote

March 31, 2014 Assembly vote

New York S 6356D Assembly Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 124 89.86%
No1410.14%

See also

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Suggest a link

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 New York Legislature, "S 6356," accessed April 30, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Journal News, "State of the State: Cuomo focuses on tax cuts, education," January 8, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, "School-bond act to improve classroom tech," April 17, 2014
  4. Daily Freeman, "NY budget's school aid package gets high marks from education advocates," March 31, 2014
  5. New York State Board of Elections, "Proposal Number Three," accessed August 3, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Western Queens Gazette, "Moya, DenDekker Support Smart Schools Bond Act," October 8, 2014
  8. The Journal News, "Democrats, teachers launch last-minute bond act push," October 28, 2014
  9. 9.0 9.1 New York Legislature Website, "Senate Votes on SB 6356," accessed October 9, 2014
  10. 10.0 10.1 OpenStates.org, "Assembly Vote on SB 6356 (Mar 31, 2014)," accessed October 9, 2014
  11. 11.0 11.1 New York City, "New York City 2014 Voter Guide," accessed October 29, 2014
  12. Capital New York, "Cuomo’s school bond would stall environmental measure," January 9, 2014
  13. Westchester County Tea Party, "Common Core," accessed October 9, 2014
  14. New York Post, "New York’s school-bond boondoggle," October 7, 2014
  15. The Journal News, "View: Smart Schools bond a bad investment," September 2, 2014
  16. WNYC, "To Bond or Not To Bond? Cuomo's Budget Asks the Question," January 20, 2014
  17. Adirondack Daily Enterprise, "Let’s not borrow $2B for school technology," October 30, 2014
  18. The Journal News, "Editorial: 'Smart Schools Bond' a misstep," October 26, 2014
  19. Newsday, "Editorial: How Newsday votes on New York ballot propositions," October 16, 2014
  20. The Post Standard, "New York Proposition 3: No on the Smart Schools Bond Act (Editorial)," October 30, 2014
  21. 21.0 21.1 ABC News, "Gov. Cuomo Criticized for Seeking Tech Advice From Google's Eric Schmidt," April 30, 2014
  22. Education Week, "Google Under Fire for Data-Mining Student Email Messages," March 13, 2014
  23. Washington Post, "Google, once disdainful of lobbying, now a master of Washington influence," April 12, 2014
  24. Consumer Watchdog, "Letter to Gov. Cuomo," April 21, 2014
  25. New York Assembly, "S06356 Votes," accessed April 30, 2014
  26. New York Senate, "Bill S6356D-2013," accessed April 30, 2014