New Technology Funds Coming to NYC/Upstate Yeshivos Through Agudah Advocacy

Nine months after the Smart Schools Review Board formally corrected classification errors that deprived nonpublic schools in New York State of millions of dollars in technology funds, new, corrected allocations are about to be released.

The Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA), passed in 2014-15, provided a one-time, $2 billion infusion for technology and other spending to improve education in schools statewide, including a percentage of funds for certain technology items for nonpublic school long-term loan. Lower than expected allocations for nonpublic schools announced in 2016 had Agudath Israel of America chief of staff and associate director of education affairs Avrohom Weinstock digging through stacks of legal and technical proposed plans to figure out why. He ultimately penned a brief describing how some school districts had mistakenly listed certain portable technology items as non-loanable infrastructure items, incorrectly rendering them ineligible for nonpublic school use under SSBA criteria.

That mistake prevented nonpublic school students from receiving their equitable share of the technology funds, prompting the Agudah and its coalition partners to push for a correction. Last June’s 2017-2018 Enacted Budget ordered the recalculation of funds, where applicable, and included an additional $25 million in technology funding earmarked for nonpublic schools to cover the shortfall. The Agudah thanks the 2017-18 legislature and Governor Cuomo for passing this legislation, and the Smart Schools Review Board and NYS Education Department assistant commissioner Christina Coughlin, for its implementation.

In New York City, the allocation, which can be spent over several years, will be rolled out on June 1st, 2019 and can be used to obtain smartboards, desktop computers, laptop computers, 3-D and standard printers, tablets, wireless access points, computer servers, and other approved items for non-religious, educational purposes. NYC yeshivos and nonpublic schools are slated to receive $19.6 million of the $25 million allocation, totaling approximately $195 in technology funds per student, which more than doubles the NYC per pupil amount initially allocated. The Agudah thanks the NYC Department of Education for working with nonpublic schools groups to ensure a smooth rollout of the program.

Among the districts that will receive an increased allocation is East Ramapo, whose yeshivos and nonpublic schools will receive an additional $876,826 toward technology items. These funds are also expected to be made available in the near future.