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Education Technology Note deserves a ‘yes’ vote

February 11, 2019

It’s no wonder the results of the Albuquerque Public Schools vote-by-mail election — a resounding defeat for three proposed construction bonds — is making officials of Santa Fe Public Schools nervous.

Look at what is happening now in Santa Fe. School district voters are deciding in an election by mail whether to approve an Education Technology Note to pay for equipment, coaches, infrastructure and personnel in traditional and charter public schools.

If approved, the note will provide $11 million a year for five years, all spent to prepare students for the digital world. We strongly endorse approval of this measure and believe that in Santa Fe, more participation by voters will lead to broader support for important education initiatives.

Of course, that prediction could be wrong. Only after the voting is completed and the ballots counted will we know whether an anti-tax sentiment is on the rise, whether a larger turnout because of convenient mail voting simply brings out more naysayers or whether Albuquerque is its own beast.

What we can say is that bringing more people in to vote is a good thing. Over the past decade or so, voter turnout in school bond elections never has risen above about 10 percent of voters. That’s not enough participation to decide where to spend tax dollars and whether property taxes should increase. In Albuquerque, 28.7 percent of eligible voters turned out to deny the three bond measures.

Everyone is wondering whether more voters will mean less money for schools. This special election is simply the first in an attempt to draw more attention not just to school elections, but to municipal, community college and other elections that had been scattered confusingly throughout the calendar year.

Under the Local Elections Act, starting this year, those nonpartisan elections will take place in odd-numbered years in November. Unfortunately for school districts like Santa Fe, whose elections took place in February, postponing the vote on a technology note even by 10 months would have meant a lapse in funding.

Thus, the decision by the Board of Education to hold a vote-by-mail election, at a cost of around $180,000. Ballots went out Feb. 5, with voters having until March 5 to turn them in.

One advantage in Santa Fe — a continuation of the Education Technology Note will not increase property taxes. There is no tax increase, unlike the situation in Albuquerque where taxes would have gone up. However, defeat of the note does mean property taxes would decline. For residents with a home valued at around $300,000, that would mean a decrease in property taxes of $150 a year.

Any savings is tempting at a time when, despite a supposedly booming economy, anxiety about maintaining a standard of living is real. However, it’s important to state what happens for children if voters do continue this note.

Fundamentally, how we educate our children is being transformed by technology. It’s to the credit of the Santa Fe Public Schools that its leaders are embracing the future, especially making sure that all children — rich or poor — have access to technology.

Children in our schools are taking tests online, they are boosting math and science learning through technology; even literacy, the building block of education, can be improved with digital tools. For all of that to happen, however, children need access to digital devices. Teachers need to learn how to use technology to support their students. The district has to pay salaries for digital coaches and technology gurus to train teachers and to keep the systems running.

All of that is why continuing the current Education Technology Note is essential. If approved, some $9.6 million will be spent each year at traditional schools, with another $1.4 million going to charter schools. All public school students benefit, in other words.

Digital learning is no longer the future. It is the present. For that reason, The New Mexican endorses a “yes” vote for the Santa Fe Public Schools Education Technology Note. Our town can show everyone that when more people vote, education will not suffer. That’s the Santa Fe way.

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