MONROE -- A levy that generates money for all Monroe County school districts is giving students a technological edge that prepares them for the 21st century and the modern workplace, school officials said.
Voters will be asked to renew the countywide levy Tuesday. The issue will be on the ballot in all townships and cities in the county. Most school districts also will elect board of education members.
The five-year property tax levy, slightly less than 1 mill, was first approved in 1997, and renewed in 2001 and 2006. It generated approximately $5.5 million for the county's nine public school districts in the 2009-10 school year.
The original levy was 1 mill, but it has dropped to 0.9866 mills because of readjusted property values. That equates to $98.66 per year in taxes on a home with a taxable value of $100,000.
The vote margin five years ago when it was renewed for the third time was 4,177. It was won by about 300 votes in 1997 and was approved by more than 2,700 votes in 2001.
Don Spencer, superintendent of the Monroe County Intermediate School District, which oversees the ballot issue but doesn't collect any money from it, said no other county in Michigan has a levy designated for technology for schools.
"I think having technology network for all schools on a countywide basis probably makes the most sense. You look at other school districts they are struggling to fund technology. For us, it is a quality issue. It gives the kids at Airport Schools the same opportunities as the kids in Whiteford and Bedford Schools," Mr. Spencer said.
Bedford Public Schools, which received more than $1.2 million in technology tax funds in the 2009-10 school year, has used the levy money to install interactive LCD projectors in classrooms, set up e-mail accounts between students and teachers, install wireless Internet in buildings, and implement a learning management system.
Other school districts have used the funds for similar technology equipment.
The levy is endorsed by every board of education in the county as well as township boards and the county commissioners, Monroe County Community College, and Monroe County Library System.
Marc Drougel, a Monroe High School chemistry teacher, said the laptops in his classroom are crucial in aiding student testing and allowing them to learn at their own pace.
He said students have up to three opportunities to take the assessments in which questions are randomly posted in computer tests. If a student achieves a perfect score the first time they move on to the next section. "The idea is try these things until they actually understand them. With computer based computer-based tests they are not memorizing the answers. They are getting new questions and new answers each time," he said.
The use of computers, including the posting of lessons and experiments on youtube.com, allows Mr. Drougel to devote more time in the classroom to labs and activities. "I really believe the technology helps them to grasp the information more quickly. The grades have increased significantly and part of that is due to testing multiple times," he said.
The technology also allows high school students to take electives not offered in their district. They remain in their school and interact via the computer with students and teachers at another school that has the course.
Mr. Spencer said Whiteford and Summerfield schools offer that shared online arrangement for calculus.
"They are able to offer a challenging course to students that they would not be able to offer individually," he said.