Tech levies: Digital age demands digital classrooms

The technology levies on school district ballots this winter are stark proof that the Legislature has failed its constitutional duty to fully fund basic education.

The 21st century is saturated with electronic technology — yet school districts must beg local voters every few years to help upgrade their computers, software and Internet infrastructure. Technology today is part of basic education, but the state treats it as a luxury.

Eight Pierce County districts — Tacoma, Puyallup, University Place, Sumner, Bethel, Franklin Pierce, Dieringer and White River — have technology levies on the February ballots. All are designated “Proposition 2.”

A few high points:

 • In addition to classroom technology, University Place’s four-year, $2.6 million levy would pay for greater student security — video surveillance, cameras in all schools and buses, intercom and phone systems.

 • Puyallup’s levy — $46 million over six years — is a broad measure that would repair and maintain buildings in addition to improving technology. The price looks high because this is a large and fast-growing school district. For an owner of a $250,000 home, the actual first-year cost would be about $13.30 a month.

One example of the need: 500 student computers are at least 8 years old. Antiques.

 • As in other districts, Sumner’s $11 million, four-year levy aims to give all students full-time access to computers, including cheap but up-to-date tablets and Chrome books. Teachers now must roll computers around the school on wheels to provide students with temporary computer labs.

 • Franklin Pierce’s four-year, $5.86 million levy would — among other things — let the district keep up on software licenses, training, student access and replacement of obsolete machines.

 • Like other districts, Bethel is moving to thoroughly integrate its curriculum with technology. It has “blended learning” projects going at three schools. Its four-year, $18 million levy would expand computer use and accelerate the use of digital devices in the classroom.

 • Tacoma’s replacement levy — $40 million over four years — is similar to those in other districts. It would, for example, give students round-the-clock access to computers and much faster Internet and wireless speeds.

Educators and students need what these levies would buy. Schools that aren’t equipped with up-to-date digital technology cannot prepare young people for 21st-century jobs and careers. All these measures deserve passage.