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Washington State School Board Proposes $4 Million Tech Levy

Schools in Wenatchee would use the funds over a six-year period to upgrade a broad range of tech needs, including system-wide infrastructure, personnel to keep the equipment running and training for teachers.

by Nevonne Mcdaniels. The Wenatchee World / May 16, 2019
Joseph Roberts, GIS analyst, and Paige Jackson, communications and training lead, demo tech projects and gather student feedback related to Memphis' priorities such as jobs, public safety, good government, youth and neighborhoods. Wendy Harris, Project Management Administrator Memphis.

(TNS) — The Wenatchee School Board fielded a recommendation Tuesday to put a technology levy on the November ballot that would raise about $4 million a year for six years.

The proposal, put together by a 16-member committee of staff, parents and community members, would reduce pressure on the existing voter-approved maintenance and operations (M&O) levy funds and cover ongoing technology-related infrastructure, operational and support costs, as well as classroom upgrades.

“We currently fund most of our technology spending out of the M&O. We don’t get a lot of funding from the state, but we do get some,” said Ron Brown, the district’s director of instructional technology and a committee member.

The need for technology is not going anywhere.

“Everything plugs in,” Brown said. “Everything is based on network accessibility,” including classroom instruction as well as safety and security. “We are recommending to run a levy at some point.”

As proposed by the committee, the levy would cost about 80 cents for every $1,000 of assessed property value each year for six years. The idea is that it would then be put up for renewal.

This is at least the third time a tech levy has been proposed, with committee presentations made in 2012 and 2016.

Both times, Brown said, the board decided against putting a measure on the ballot to avoid competing with construction bond proposals.

The first bond resulted in new technology-friendly classrooms, and the district at the same time moved ahead on the expansion of the one-to-one device program where each student in a classroom is provided with an iPad.

In terms of dollars and cents, he said, those devices account for a fraction of a school district’s technology costs.

Bigger-ticket items include the system-wide infrastructure and personnel needed to keep the infrastructure updated and operating, and the expertise and time needed to train teachers to use the devices to effectively integrate it into their classrooms.

The funding stream from a technology levy would help assure all classrooms have access to technology.

“Not all buildings are the same,” Brown said. “We have little pockets of excellence all over the place, but we want it everywhere. That’s the feeling of the committee. Teachers need effective technology, consistent internet that supports bandwidth. They need classroom devices and support.”

Board members listened to the presentation but put off making any commitments until later this summer after the new superintendent arrives.

The board also is discussing what to do with the current M&P levy (now called an educational programs and operations levy). The state Legislature last year capped local levies at $1.50 for every $1,000 of assessed value, while raising the state-wide levy. Wenatchee’s levy had been $2.96 per $1,000.

In February, the board approved cuts to narrow what was estimated as a $5.2 million funding gap for next year. In April, the Legislature raised the local levy cap to $2.50. The board is set to discuss some of its options during a Friday workshop.

©2019 The Wenatchee World (Wenatchee, Wash.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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