LI schools tech-up in ‘Smart’ $43M package

Funding for programs in five Long Island school districts is included in a $43 million “Smart Schools” investment package announced this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The package, which funds or partially funds a total of 36 Smart School spending plans across the state, is part of the $2 billion Smart School Bond Act, a sweeping initiative approved by state voters in 2014. The act is designed to redesign teaching and learning initiatives in New York schools to make better use of available technologies and better meet 21st century workforce demands.

Cuomo: Closing the "digital divide."

Cuomo: Closing the “digital divide.”

The governor’s Smart Schools Review Board – comprised of State Budget Director Robert Mujica, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia – met this week and approved 36 spending plans submitted by individual school districts. The plans had to meet certain criteria, including promoting the use of technology in the classroom, creating new community-connectivity options or bolstering a district’s high-tech security.

Included in this year’s funding was $2.04 million for the Patchogue-Medford School District, with $1.66 million earmarked for K-12 classroom technology improvements and $373,942 dedicated to community connectivity efforts; $851,715 for the Great Neck Union-Free School District, including $383,941 for community connectivity efforts, $294,420 for K-12 classroom technology and $173,354 for high-tech security improvements; and $412,032 for the Bethpage UFSD, with $243,432 going to community connectivity and $168,600 to K-12 classroom tech.

Also included was $300,907 for the South Huntington UFSD, all for K-12 classroom technology initiatives, and $31,800 for the Amagansett UFSD, with $20,000 earmarked for K-12 classroom tech and $11,800 for community connectivity.

The biggest chunks of change in this year’s Smart Schools funding found went to the Niagara Falls City School District – $5.48 million, all for K-12 classroom technology – and the Corning City School District, which is splitting its $3.65 million stipend among community connectivity ($1.51 million), K-12 tech ($1.42 million) and high-tech security ($710,000).

Amagansett’s $31,800 was the smallest approved Smart Schools spending plan on this year’s list.

Only one district – the Lancaster Central School District – submitted an approved plan that incorporated funds for pre-K classroom technology. Lancaster’s $2.98 million award includes $2.1 million for pre-K initiatives and $874,935 for K-12 classroom-tech efforts.

The 36 approved plans include a total of $22.8 million for K-12 classroom technology, $12.9 million for school connectivity projects – designed to digitally connect schools and surrounding communities – and $5.3 million for high-tech district security, along with the $2.1 million for the Lancaster CSD’s pre-K programs.

All told, the $43.11 million in 2016 Smart Schools spending will help close the “digital divide” by increasing access to technology and high-speed broadband Internet in hundreds of schools across the state, according to the governor’s office.

“Access to high-speed Internet and new technology should never depend on your ZIP code,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We are expanding educational opportunity in every corner of the state. This funding will help enhance teaching and learning for the 21st century, improve educational outcomes and prepare today’s students to be the future leaders of tomorrow.”