One Monroe County commissioner cited the region’s education technology millage as the reason nearly 21,000 students didn’t lose a full year of learning in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That, in part, inspired the commission’s recent backing of the proposed renewal of a one-mill levy to fund education technology at all school districts in Monroe County.
Renewal of the millage is being sought for another five years in a special election May 4.
Donald Spencer, chairman of the Citizens for Educational Technology Committee, gave a power point presentation on the millage request that was first passed by voters in 1997. It has been renewed four times since, Spencer said during the county board’s meeting held through Zoom.
The proposal would allow the county intermediate school district (ISD) to continue to levy a regional enhancement millage that will expire with the 2021 levy.
Under state law, the revenue raised by the millage would be collected by the ISD and distributed to the public school districts based on per-pupil membership enrollment.
If successful, the owner of a home with a taxable value of $100,000 would pay about $98.66 annually with the enhancement tax.
The revenue collected in the first year of the term would be about $6,151,499, which would be disbursed to Airport, Bedford, Dundee, Ida, Jefferson, Mason, Monroe, Summerfield and Whiteford schools, along with New Bedford Academy, Triumph Academy and the ISD.
At one time, “our districts were among the lowest funded in the state,” Spencer told the eight commissioners present.
Monroe County was the first to pass a technology millage in 1997.
“Today, our school districts are the model for the rest of the state,” he said.
He cited several benefits from the millage, including equity funding that provides $312 per student for each district.
“The one mill generates more through a (countywide) millage than if they were levying for just one district,” he said.
He said the millage also provides:
- High-speed Internet connectivity for each district.
- A useful tool to attract new industries and businesses to the county. The Monroe County Business Development Corporation uses the enhanced technology in its recruitment efforts.
- A prepared workforce.
- A useful backup system for responding to changes triggered by the coronavirus pandemic. It enabled students who were equipped with iPads and Chromebooks to take part in virtual learning from their homes when in-person classes were not possible.
“This has been a great asset during the pandemic,” Spencer said about the enhanced technology in classrooms. “We had 21,000 students benefit because they could attend school every day.”
Also joining in the presentation were Supt. Dr. Carl Shultz of Bedford Public Schools; Supt. Kelli Tuller of Mason Consolidated Schools; and Supt. Julie Everly of Monroe Public Schools.
Spencer also played a video recorded by Emily Marshall, a sixth-grade instructor at Dundee Community Schools who said she came to the district because of the technology already in place.
“Students were able to learn because they had their devices,” Marshall said in the video.
Commissioner David Swartout said without having the technology in place, “we might have had to have students take the whole year over again” due to the pandemic.
Besides interactive live instruction and advanced placement courses, other benefits students derive from the technology millage are alternative education options, career technological education courses and more robotics teams, Spencer added.
“There are over 15 Robotics teams in the county,” Spencer noted. “That’s a lot. That speaks to the culture in this county.”