MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. – State, county and local officials came together on the steps of the Mount Vernon Board of Education office on Wednesday with a message for voters as Election Day nears: support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $2 billion Smart School Bond Act.
On Tuesday, Nov. 4, registered voters will be asked to approve the school bond – Proposition No. 3 on the ballot – which calls for the state to borrow $2 billion, which will then be dispersed to participating school districts for technology and infrastructure upgrades.
In total, Westchester school districts will receive nearly $62 million if the bond is passed. If approved, the state will send approximately $24 to Yonkers, with just less than $8 million going to Mount Vernon schools, which have faced budgetary concerns for years.
“Mount Vernon is probably never going to get an opportunity like this to close the digital divide between our students and our neighbors,” Schools Superintendent Kenneth Hamilton said. “More than just hardware and software updates, this will allow us access to equipment to enhance our infrastructure. We’ll be better able to connect our students with others around the globe.”
If the Smart Schools Bond Act is approved, it will allow larger city school districts, which often have a lower dollar-to-pupil ratio, an opportunity to catch up to some of the more affluent districts in the county that already enjoy the splendors of technology.
“Knowledge is power, and at this time, we in Mount Vernon cannot lag behind,” City Council President Roberta Apuzzo said. “We have to begin to close the digital divide.”
Assemblyman Lyndon Williams, who represents Mount Vernon, noted that propositions are often overlooked on ballots, as voters are eager to cast their votes for their local politicians. He stressed that it was important voters take the time to support the Smart School Bond Act.
“Propositions are usually ignored. People sometimes aren’t paying attention and miss it. We want Proposition No. 3 to be a reason for people to vote, because you’re voting for your children,” he said. “Their future is wrapped in Proposition No. 3.”
Opponents to the bond issue have been critical of the idea of borrowing money for technology that will be obsolete before the $2 billion is even paid back. Derickson Lawrence, the Westchester County Homeowners’ Coalition chair, said that while that is a mild concern, students are at a time when this is necessary.
“We have to be innovative, and we need to shift the paradigm about how we educate our students,” he said. “We have a responsibility to educate our young children so they can succeed in a technological world.”
If approved, recipients of the one-time revenue source will be required to collaborate with officials and the community to submit a “Smart Schools Investment Plan,” with project grants being reviewed and released, if approved.
“If we want 21st century learning, we need the infrastructure that this proposition provides,” Darcy Miller, the chair of the Mount Vernon Technology Committee said. “This is like Halley’s Comet, this money isn’t coming back anytime soon.”
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