Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Will Cuomo's Smart Schools Tech Boondoggle Bond Actually Pass?

It doesn't sound like anybody other than Cuomo and his tech buddies are actually supporting it:

When Cuomo first announced the bond act, school groups gave the proposal a lukewarm reception, arguing that any additional funding would be better spent to restore recent cuts in aid that have forced some districts to lay off teachers and eliminate programs.

“I know of no state education groups—or any groups, for that matter, that are actively advocating for passage of the act,” said David Albert, spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association.

”I've heard nothing about lobbying the bond act,” said Carl Korn, spokesman for New York State United Teachers.

The fiscally conservative Empire Center seems to be the only group actively lobbying on behalf of the bond proposal—and the think tank is decidedly against it.

“The annual payments on $2 billion in bonds could ultimately come to more than $130 million a year,” E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Cenrter, wrote in an op-ed in Wednesday’s New York Post. “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.”

McMahon joins other financial experts in warning against the use of long-term debt to finance the purchase of products with short useful lives, as Capital has reported.

Jessica Bakeman at Capital NY reports that Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch was "lukewarm" in support of the bond and said she thought it was a mistake if the money from the bond was used on short-term tech projects:

Tisch agrees, saying on Wednesday that she hopes districts avoid investing in technology that will soon be obsolete.

“I am a believer that what’s potent in technology today, six months from now is on the shelf, an old hat,” she said. “So my hope is that districts … have a long range vision for what the best uses of technology are and use them masterfully to deliver a quality curriculum.”

Mark the calendar - here's one of the few times I agree with Merryl Tisch:

What's so-called cutting edge in technology today is old in six months and obsolete soon after.

It will be interesting to see if the Smart Schools Initiative passes.

With few actively lobbying for it, there won't be a ton of press or ads about it in the lead-up to the election.

I haven't seen any polling on the matter either.

So it's hard to say how voters will go with the bond next month.

But I will be actively campaigning against it.

That should sway, well, probably nobody.

Nonetheless, I cannot support the bond.

Cuomo and his tech buddies want the money for tech projects that, as Tisch notes, will be obsolete soon after they're completed.

We've seen this kind of boondoggle in L.A. where they spent infrastructure money on iPads.

The truth is, if this were going for real infrastructure - i.e., school buildings - I would support it.

But that's not where the money's going to go.

Instead most of it will be used for bandwidth and other tech upgrades to get the online state testing apparatus going.

It's interesting that Merryl Tisch is lukewarm about the bond when that's where the money's supposed to go.

Perhaps she looked at the L.A. iPad disaster and figured there's a better way to spend $2 billion in taxpayer money for education.


  1. Before voting to take on decades of debt and interest payments, voters should keep in mind that nothing dulls faster than the cutting edge.

    1. Michael, as always, you crystallize the whole story into a pithy, memorable sentence.