Those of us whose childhood experiences with technological upgrades in the schools involved little more than mimeograph machines replaced by photocopiers may find an upcoming Scottsdale school capital budget override election a bit daunting, though necessary.
District officials want voters in November to approve $82 million for computers, textbooks, furniture and playground equipment. As the Tribune’s Andrea Falkenhagen reported Wednesday, that includes making wireless Internet access available to every high schooler via classrooms and laptops. It will also include installing interactive digital white boards, which, it is assumed, won’t involve chalk dust.
This is a far cry from earlier generations’ heady hightech experience of sniffing a freshly copied set of quiz questions and feeling jealous after graduating upon learning that they put telephones and television screens on classroom walls. They only allowed public television to be shown, right?
The gee-whiz factor to gadgetry is apparently still there now. The district’s information technology director, Ernie Nicely, told Falkenhagen that what they tried to do “was think, what would Disney do in terms of designing a classroom, because the classroom is at the center of our plan.”
Disney’s apparently come a long way since when its only presence in schools was Donald Duck glowering from the side of a lunch box.
It’s all because the state’s funding formula for public schools doesn’t do enough to meet youngsters’ educational needs. Districts such as Scottsdale have to go to voters for items once considered to be “bells and whistles” but now are the heart and soul of what it takes to teach children to prepare for 21st century lives and careers.
And so the district asks voters to approve another override, another extension of taxes from a funding formula that gets more out of whack with each passing year, keeping the original increase in taxes first asked of us somewhere in the mists of time from ever going away at last.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the funding formula, last updated in 1980, were updated by the Legislature at least as often as the latest version of a computer’s operating system, so people wouldn’t have to vote on it all the time? So long as the district gets a good price on these computers, what could possibly be at issue in such an election? Who else but a Luddite would say that students don’t need to learn the latest technology, that the outdated stuff will do them just fine in college and career?
And, funny, isn’t it? The city reports that of every Scottsdale resident’s property-tax dollar, 54 cents goes to the school district. Only 11 cents goes to the city. Why is it, then, that the city gets the majority of the tax-hike complaints?