Technology election almost over — don’t forget to vote

March 4, 2019

Only one more day remains until the conclusion of Santa Fe’s first vote-by-mail election to decide the fate of an education technology note for Santa Fe Public Schools.

Whatever the results, it is encouraging to see so many thousands of voters taking part. Late last week, more than 25,000 ballots had been returned to Santa Fe County Clerk Geraldine Salazar, who oversees the election. With participation of less than 10 percent or so in recent school elections, this promises to be a record-breaking turnout, more than four times the number of people who usually vote.

For those who have not mailed in their ballots — it’s a simple one, yes or no — walk over to the Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office. Otherwise, the ballot will not arrive by 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, when the election closes. (The County Clerk’s Office is at 102 Grant Ave. in downtown Santa Fe.)

The question for voters is whether to continue a property tax that raises $11 million a year over five years, all to ensure that traditional public school and charter school students have the kind of technology available to support learning. Money from the note will go to pay digital coaches, buy devices for students, upgrade technology infrastructure, fund technical support and give teachers training.

We have endorsed approval of the school district’s Education Technology Note for a number of reasons. The tax already is in place. There will be no increase in property taxes, always a concern. If it is not continued, taxes would decrease. For residents with a home valued at around $300,000, that would mean a drop in property taxes of about $150 a year.

Yet if the tax is not approved, the schools will lose an essential source of funding. To those confused about why there’s a separate tax for technology projects, it was established by the Legislature to allow districts across New Mexico to raise money solely for technology, using property taxes as the source. That way, since there is no dedicated technology fund at the state level, districts do not have to divert scarce dollars from building and maintenance to keep up with technology.

And keeping up is important, especially for the students who are aiming for technology careers or who want solid foundations in math and science. Technology, too, can help with reading achievement in early grades and enhance liberal arts learning as students age. Students interested in technology can study computer science, learning to code and create their own apps — all skills that will enable them to get a job in an increasingly competitive world.

We urge a “yes” vote on approving the Education Technology Note for the Santa Fe Public Schools. Now, get those ballots back to the County Clerk’s Office.