The third proposition on yesterday’s New York ballot was whether or not the New York Bonds for School Technology Act should be passed. The act would allow the state to invest in science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics education by issuing $2 billion in bonds, of which New York City would receive $783,141,339. The money would help fund new interactive whiteboards, servers, computers and enhanced Internet connectivity. This act is New York State’s opportunity to lead the nation in tackling its poor global education ranking and preparing students to enter a changing workforce.
About 90 percent of students in New York have no interest in pursuing the fields prioritised by STEAM, and part of the Smart Schools Commission’s goal is to reintroduce enthusiasm and excitement into the classroom. By teaching STEAM subjects in an interactive and interesting way, the commission hopes to equip students with the skills needed to take these subjects into the workplace. It is estimated that in the next four years there will be over 2.4 million job openings in the STEAM fields. Looking at these statistics, the investment made by New York seems worthwhile. And as technology becomes more vital to everyday life, computer-based learning is quickly becoming one of the most important fields within education.
Some condemned the initiative, calling on voters to consider the bill’s costs and consequences. “Even New Yorkers inclined to write a blank check for education should think long and hard before they say ‘yes’ to Prop 3,” E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center for New York State Policy, said. Others expressed concern about the lifespan of new technology, but the benefits of modernizing education is a long-term investment in the education policy of the country. Refusing to provide at least some technologic provisions will cause the United States to fall further behind in global education rankings.
Beyond the simple joys of iPads and SMART boards, one of the potential uses of the technology upgrades authorized by the act is the administration of online testing. Online testing is a central element of the Common Core standards, which have been adopted by 43 states. While some disagree with the Common Core, there is no doubt that online testing is on the rise, so current investments are sure to remain relevant in the future.
Budget concerns are always an issue, but if New York is going to spend on anything, its students and its future should be a top priority. Paying now to improve education and prepare students for higher paying jobs is a long-term investment. Increasing funding for STEAM fields is also going to have more positive, long-lasting benefits than say, investments in public infrastructure. This act is a step in the right direction that the nation as a whole should seek to emulate.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Nov. 5 print edition. Email the WSN Editorial Board at [email protected]