FAQ - NYS School Technology Voucher Program

In February 2013, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) announced a new resource available to selected charter and district public schools: vouchers to purchase hardware and software technology.

For official guidance, visit NYSED’s NYS-STVEP home page.

This page answers Frequently Asked Questions about the program as it pertains to charter schools in New York City. It does not replace the official FAQ from NYSED.

THE BASICS

PARTICIPATION

TECHNICAL AND MISCELLANEOUS


THE BASICS

Where do these vouchers come from? What is their purpose?

Due to a class action settlement with the Microsoft Corporation, New York State has an $87 million fund for technology in public education. At the same time, NYSED is preparing to administer computer-based testing as part of the multi-year transition to the Common Core Learning Standards.

In order to help schools prepare for computer-based testing, which may require as much as one computer per student, the money from the settlement is being offered to school districts and charter schools in the form of “vouchers" to purchase hardware and software.

Which charter schools are eligible? How much can they receive?

To be eligible, a charter school must have been open in school year 2011-12 with at least 50% of students enrolled in the Free or Reduced-Price Lunch program.

NYSED's Eligible Charter Schools List shows the amounts of General (G) and Software (S) vouchers available to each school. For New York City charter schools, the amounts range from $6,000 to $75,000, depending on enrollment [updated 5/3/2013].

Unfortunately, this program has not been designed to provide funding for charter schools that opened after 2011-12, nor to account for enrollment expansions after that year.

Is this a competitive program?

No. Schools’ voucher amounts do not depend on what other schools receive.

What can schools purchase through this program?

Each school’s voucher amount is evenly divided into two categories: “General Purpose" and “Specific Category Software." Eligible general-purpose purchases include hardware, evaluation tools, IT services, and professional development services—but only as required by the school’s approved implementation plan for computer-based testing readiness.

Although the name does not suggest it, “Specific Category Software" actually includes a wide variety of software purchases, which can be bought for strictly instructional purposes.

For example, a school may use its General Purpose vouchers to purchase new computers and routers, as a way of preparing for computer-based testing, and then use Specific Category Software vouchers to purchase standard and instructional software so the computers can be used for teaching and learning throughout the school year.

More information about eligible purchases is available in the “Voucher Products & Services” category of NYSED’s official FAQ and on its Eligible Products & Services page.

What are the timelines?

The vouchers are available for eligible purchases between September 1, 2012 and November 1, 2014, which is the last day applications can be submitted. (Software subscriptions that extend past that date will be prorated.) Because this is not a competitive program, there is no other specific application deadline.

According to NYSED, an online voucher claim system will be available in June 2013 [updated 5/2/2013].


PARTICIPATION

What is the process for accessing the vouchers? Is it burdensome?

Because the vouchers are state program and linked to the effort to prepare for computerized assessments, the process is not as simple as receiving a check.

Eligible charter schools must designate an official contact person; complete an inventory of current technology; make a plan to get ready for computer-based testing (guidance not yet available); receive approval of that plan; and submit purchase requests for approval. Then schools will receive funding for specific approved purchases.

It’s difficult to say how much administrative time will be required. NYSED describes the implementation planning requirements as “relatively simple" and requiring “only a few paragraphs" of narrative. [Update: The application form is available in .pdf form, which is available for download here.]

Is there a risk to charter school autonomy?

Based on information available so far, the program does not appear to threaten charter autonomy in the way that Race to the Top funding, in some cases, does.

The vouchers are contingent on a plan for technological readiness for computer-based testing, but executing the full plan is not a condition of the program. The vouchers have not been tied to compliance other state priorities such as teacher evaluation systems.

Although technology purchases must be “approved" as within the rules of the voucher program, those rules are wide and not platform-specific.

If your school participates in this programs and becomes concerned about its implementation, please contact the Charter Center.

Will computer-based testing readiness be mandatory in the future? Will additional funds become available?

It is not clear. New York State is publicly planning for computer-based testing, statewide, beginning in 2014-15. Looking two years into the future, it is difficult to predict developments in state budgets, Common Core coalition politics, or technology itself.

School leaders should be aware, however, that if NYSED’s current guidance about technology purchases holds, schools will be expected to have as much as one computer per student in order to facilitate the state assessments for all students at once.


TECHNICAL AND MISCELLANEOUS

Can a school be funded for technology purchases that have already been made?

Yes. Charter schools can receive voucher funding for eligible purchases made at any time between September 1, 2012 and November 1, 2014. More details about the reimbursement process will be available later in March 2013.

My charter school includes multiple buildings; must I complete multiple applications?

Check the Eligible Charter Schools List. Each unique School Code on the list requires a different application. Multiple-building situations may or may not be reflected as multiple School Codes.

Can a CMO apply on behalf of multiple schools?

Each charter school must complete a unique application, however it may be possible for a single staffer to serve as the NYS-STVEP contact for multiple charter schools. We await further details.

How does this program affect matching requirements for improvements to NYC DOE buildings?

There is no legal effect on the matching requirement in state law. In planning technology acquisitions, however, it is in every school’s best interest to coordinate with NYC DOE and any co-located schools about common needs such as network wiring.

How were the voucher amounts determined?

NYSED says the amounts are based on March 2012 enrollments of FRPL-eligible students. We have not confirmed the precise methodology.


NYSED RESOURCES

Technology vouchers overview page
Frequently Asked Questions about technology vouchers (updated)
Frequently Asked Questions about technology vouchers (original)
Information for charter schools about using the Technology Readiness (Survey) Tool
Guidance on technology purchases to support computer-based testing
Background information about statewide transition to computer-based testing


NYSED CONTACTS

Teh-yuan Wan, Ph.D., Program Coordinator
New York State Education Department
Office of Educational Design and Technology
89 Washington Avenue, Room 319 EB
Albany, NY 12234
(518) 474-5461 (main)
NYSSTVP@mail.nysed.gov

Norm Swett, PMP, Senior Project Administrator
Rust Consulting, Inc.
625 Marquette Avenue South, Suite 880
Minneapolis, MN 55402
(866) 303-7288
claimsadmin@nys-stvp.com


CHARTER CENTER CONTACT

Michael Regnier
Director of Policy & Research
(212) 437-8354
mregnier@nyccharterschools.org

Type: 
FAQ
Topic: 
Academic Design & Standards
Funding
Technology