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It is time for our community to renew our local four-year school levies. Your ballot contains two school levy propositions. First, the M&O levy, which provides about 20 percent of our district’s general funding. State and federal dollars provide only about 75 percent of the actual cost of running our schools; districts must raise the rest of their basic operating budget locally, through fees and school levies.
Second — and just as critical — is the technology levy, found on the back of your ballot. The Jimmy Carter-era school-funding formula still used by the state of Washington provides no money to equip schools with modern technology, and no money to train teachers in its use. Sure, the state has plans to fix this eventually — starting in 2018, if they ever dig out of this budget crisis! For now, school districts must fund all technology themselves, via local levies.
We approved our first-ever technology levy here four years ago. It’s been a successful first step, replacing our 1998-vintage hand-me-down computers, putting projectors and document cameras in most classrooms, and providing basic training for many teachers. But we still have a long way to go.
The levy on the Feb. 9 ballot will extend and update our kids’ classroom technology for another four years: mobile computer labs with laptops, a full rollout of the successful “smart whiteboard” pilot program, interactive “student voting” devices, wireless networks and more.
It also raises the bar for our teachers, by providing ongoing training every year, incentives for maintaining classroom-tech proficiency, and more tech-support resources. One innovative program provides funding to take a few of our brightest and most tech-savvy teachers and “embed” them as mentors, so that all of our kids’ classrooms can benefit. This isn’t just “Microsoft Word” training — this is about changing how teachers teach, to reach kids more effectively.
A “yes” vote on the technology levy is a smart investment in keeping our schools and teachers competitive and innovative, with a big payoff in better-educated kids, better prepared for 21st-century life. Please join me in voting “yes” to renew both of our school levies!