Opinion

POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Technology levy for Federal Way schools

The following two essays are related to the Federal Way School District's technology levy proposal on the Feb. 9 ballot. Click here to learn more.

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Vote yes: Technology levy is essential to education

By Charlene Yamasaki, Citizens for Federal Way Schools

Nowadays, the computers at homes, schools, libraries and other public locations have become sleeker and faster than ever. Today, people are becoming increasingly more knowledgeable in the use of technology in their everyday lives.

It is the public norm to own a cell phone for direct and immediate communication. Some cell phones, like a Blackberry, even look like mini-computers with a keyboard for texting or logging onto the Internet. In order for all students within our district to remain competitive with students around the world, we need to be able to keep up with the fast-paced world of technology as it becomes even more essential for our daily lives in the classroom, at work and for personal use.

Because of our last technology levy, Federal Way schools are able to use equipment that helps all types of learners. Devices, such as Elmos and overheads, can be found in just about every classroom. These help the visual learners; podcasts of certain lessons help the more auditory learners.

In order to make maximum use of available technology, each classroom computer needs to be equipped with a fast Internet connection. Slow computers are not only annoying, but they can impede learning. Students know how to operate computers due to the keyboarding classes learned in elementary school. PowerPoint presentations and video making are a couple of the newer forms of presentation. Technology has truly become an integral part of every student’s daily life.

Some math classes require pricey graphing calculators as a necessity for the curriculum. Schools provide the learning opportunity, but requiring students to buy a $100 calculator is shocking when the student has to own one in order to participate in class and cannot afford it. The need for equitable access to these challenging courses requires our district to provide needed technology for these classes to ensure that technology equity exists for all kids.

A wonderful thing our district has provided for students is grades online. Students have a quick and easy way to check their grades as often as they want and know what they can do to improve their grades and keep them on track. The Internet in schools has provided teachers with the opportunity to post assignments or lecture notes on their Web sites to further help the learning process.

Keeping up with our ever-developing technological world is essential, as it becomes more of a necessity for everyday living.

Please vote yes for schools by Feb. 9. Support the technology levy. Give the children of Federal Way every chance to succeed.

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Vote no: Money for technology levy is misguided

By Charlie Hoff, Committee to Improve Our Schools

Why should taxpayers reject the proposed technology levy of the Federal Way School District?

There are several aspects of this proposal that should cause the taxpayers of the school district to wonder.

The proposed levy is designed to change the ratio of computers from the current one for every six students to one for every student.

This will require the addition of approximately 19,200 additional computers or digital devices to our schools. The additional support required for this will add a considerable amount to the fixed costs of our schools. As most of us know, these things don’t work without some maintenance and upgraded expensive software, particularly when in the hands of children. This is a school district that has limited resources. Currently, most students have access to a computer in their homes, and there are entire classrooms of them available in the schools. Our public libraries also make computers available to all students. Access to a computer is no longer difficult to obtain.

Since the beginning of the computer age in schools in the early 1980s, there hasn’t been any significant evidence of “improved achievement.” If there had been an improvement, the likes of Microsoft and Apple would have made sure that we knew about it.

In fact, the addition of digital devices, Gameboys, iPhones, iPods, XBoxes, YouTube, text messaging, Twitter and MySpace have all turned out to be major distractions to learning. If one were to tour the existing computer labs in our schools, one would find that there is not a great deal of honest research taking place in most cases. Most kids have learned how to use computers without any significant instruction by educators.

While this levy is designed not to raise our basic tax rates, it accomplishes this by taking tax dollars that are currently used to upgrade and replace facilities, and uses these dollars to purchase technology. The district has many schools that have passed their age of usefulness such as Federal Way High School, or are nearing this stage. If these same funds were to be used to purchase construction bonds, the district could replace the academic portions, the oldest parts, of Federal Way High School with a far more energy efficient facility. Let’s not take long-term dollars and spend them on short-term ideas.

Schools have been through many fads in electronics. Language labs, educational television, on demand television and now perhaps mass computing have all come, and gone, from schools at considerable expense.

We favor a levy that would continue the current level of technology in our classrooms and the use of funds generated from retiring bonds to continue a program of replacement of obsolete facilities.

The costs to taxpayers are the same and the results are more lasting.

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