by Andrea Rogers
On the ballot this November 4th voters have the opportunity to support or oppose Proposition 3, the Smart Schools Bond Act. The proposed bond was passed in last year's budget package, but requires statewide voter approval before it is official.
Let’s get the burning question out of the way – the bond issuance will not benefit charters.
Being excluded continues the trend of denying resources to charter schools, despite their status as public schools and the fact that they overwhelmingly serve poor and minority students. This exclusion is ironic after all the accusations of abundant charter school love offered by Albany last spring. And it is baffling considering charters have faced years of flat funding – with just a miniscule bump after last session – yet they produce results that help children.
The bond proposal authorizes the issuance of $2 billion in general obligation bonds to finance classroom technology, high-speed connectivity, bricks and mortar infrastructure (such as classrooms to provide space for all those prekindergarten programs being created) and new security systems. For more information and to see how much funding is allocated for each district, visit http://www.governor.ny.gov/smart-schools-ny.
The proposal has some opposition. It stems from a shared sense that it kicks the can full of school funding issues down the road even further. Rather than grapple with the tough questions of how to better craft a fair and efficient way of funding students, the state instead puts us into more debt—well after the “smart” new technology is obsolete. No one describes this position better than EJ McMahon of the Empire Center.
There is also some support in favor of the proposal, including from NYSUT and some politicians, in part as a way to bridge the digital divide. Overall, however, enthusiasm for passage has been lackluster at best (read more here and here).
As the proposal fails to include charter schools, NECSN is neutral on its fate. Our exclusion comes at an interesting time, however, with charter school funding and facility issues being challenged (see here, here and here). Charter schools must ensure that their buildings are able to accommodate next generation testing, must ensure the safety and security of all students and staff members, and are eligible to provide prekindergarten.
Above all, charters are expected to provide robust educational learning environments with stellar academic results, and while new technology is not imperative to meet that goal, many educators and parents would agree that having access to more resources is a good thing. Charter school funding is by design inequitable already. The Smart Schools Bond Act is one more facility funding stream that will flow around us if approved.
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