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New York students need the ‘Smart Schools’ bond referendum to pass

In his “State of the State” address, Governor Cuomo proposed a $2 billion “Smart Schools” bond referendum to help equip our students with the technology they need to compete with our national and global counterparts. Current federal and state aid funding is simply not enough.

On Election Day, Tuesday, November 4, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to vote on the Smart Schools Bond Act of 2014 and put this ambitious plan into action. If approved, the Smart Schools initiative will accomplish the following:

  • Replace chalkboards with technology such as whiteboards and enable schools to go wireless.
  • Educate students using tablets instead of outdated textbooks and worksheets.
  • Make it possible for teachers to connect with one another to share strategies and lesson plans.
  • Offer Advanced Placement courses through blended online/classroom learning.
  • Install high-tech security features in school buildings.

The bond act would also allow for the construction and modernization of facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs and replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space.

I believe we need the Smart Schools bond referendum to be approved in order to make these goals a reality. Earlier this year I worked closely with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office to ensure that the Smart Schools initiative would address the needs of all students, not just those in public schools. Yeshivas, parochial and other non-public schools benefit from federal and state aid and are struggling like their public counterparts to meet today’s technological demands.

As any parent, teacher or anyone acquainted with the school system can tell you, there is a great difference between a classroom outfitted with up-to-date, advanced technology and one without.

While there is no substitute for old-fashioned, face-to-face communication between teachers and students, Smart Boards and other advanced technologies have enhanced teachers’ ability to engage students as well as deepened students’ overall knowledge and appreciation for the material being taught. Advanced technology coupled with classic educational methods translates into students who are motivated to succeed and become lifelong learners.

As we prepare our children to compete and find jobs in an economy that considers technical literacy a valued and, in fact, indispensable commodity, it is vitally important that we provide them with classrooms where they can develop these essential skills.

If the Smart Schools bond initiative is approved on Tuesday, November 4, New York State will at last be equipped to place our children on the technological path to future success. This is a tantalizing goal and one that merits voters’ support.

Assemblymember Steven Cymbrowitz represents the 45th Assembly District.

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