Opinion

Vote ‘Yes’ for school tech levy

Forty years ago, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore noticed ongoing, exponential leaps in the development of the integrated circuit. His observation – generally expressed as the tendency for chip capacity to double every 18 months or so – came to be known as Moore’s Law.

His observation is perhaps equally useful as a metaphor for the magnitude of economic and societal shifts that have come with the proliferation of home computers and popular access to the Internet. Think for a moment about how advances in digital data transmission have changed your day-to-day life since 1996 – the last year that island voters were asked to support short-term technology funding (of some $1.7 million) for public schools. The changes are staggering, and cast in poor relief the fact that over those nine years, Bainbridge schools have lost ground against technology and its integration into the learning environment. Classrooms currently offer computers that are badly out of date, and the schools lag behind as advances in interactive displays open new avenues of instruction in a traditionally chalk-and-blackboard realm.

Voters on May 17 are asked to approve a four-year, $8.9

million technology levy to bring the district up to date. It’s

long overdue, and grounded in the common goal of improving student achievement in the general curriculum as well as

technology literacy. It should serve to standardize computing from campus to campus – technology purchases have heretofore been piecemeal – and will put schools on a regular replacement cycle for such equipment.

Is the levy expensive? As always, that is relative to the finances of the individual household. For the owners of a $400,000 Bainbridge home, the cost would be around $200 per year. But if you’re concerned over the escalation of local property taxes, your real beef is with Olympia, where legislators refuse to consider any meaningful, statewide tax reform. Until they do, schools and other local public institutions must support themselves through taxes on real property. That’s just how it works in Washington, and opposing special levies simply because “they add up” does nothing to address the need for services.

A handful of levy opponents have surfaced, sending out mailers critical of the funding plan and suggesting that the district look for elusive outside grants. In so doing, they highlight the real need for more public school dollars; the state provides no funding for technology purchases, and federal funding, as district officials point out, equates to about $1 per student per year. The district’s general maintenance and operations levy, which voters passed overwhelmingly two years ago, allows for no real capital purchases like computers. And the Bainbridge community is too well-off to qualify for grants.

While critics are welcome to evaluate the levy and its goals, some of the “facts” being presented appear to be erroneous. We would caution voters to check such statements against the district’s levy information site at www.bainbridge.wednet.edu/techlevy2005/, to best understand the issues at hand.

Curiously, a few folks are even citing Moore’s Law as an argument against the levy, their view apparently being, “Don’t invest in technology, because it’s just going to be outdated in a few years.” Such a self-defeating approach would relegate our schools to the backwaters of change and innovation, when we should rightly be embracing the digital age and the many tools it offers modern education.

It’s a wired world, and it’s time for Bainbridge schools to catch up. Vote Yes on May 17.

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