Robert Hornik has seen a lot in his two decades as a teacher at the East New York Family Academy in Brooklyn. “It used to be common to see police helicopters circling overhead,” he recalls. But things in the surrounding area have improved dramatically since Hornik first came to the school in 1995. These days Hornik is more focused on mundane details: “Simple stuff, like just making sure we have enough computers for every kid to work on.”

Family Academy relies on a mish-mash of laptops and desktop PCs, many more than a decade old. Screens are cracked and keys are missing. The school’s annual budget for technology is around $12,000, barely enough to pay a part-time IT staffer to keep the few machines they have up and running. Last year, at any one time, the school had about 20-30 computers functioning for a student body of over 450. “You would come to class and just have to double or triple up with other people on one machine,” says Abimael Hernandez, a senior. “The machines were just really, slow, ya know. A pain to use.”