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The Prior Lake Savage Area School Board is preparing for a tax levy vote later this year for the establishment of a new $3.5 million, 10-year technology fund ($35 million total). This tax increase is estimated to cost a residential property owner $204 per year (using the district’s average residential home value of $400,000).

Today, PLSAS does not have a separate technology levy because the money PLSAS uses for technology expenditures comes directly out of the General Fund levy. Historical technology expenditures paid out of the General Fund has averaged roughly $3.5 million per year. But COVID funds received this year from federal/state governments allowed the district to spend more than the historical $3.5 million for technology (roughly $4.6 million was spent during the past year).

The school board wants to make this new, higher level of expenditures permanent via the new levy — in fact, they want to make it even higher than historical spending levels including the one-time COVID receipts.

At first, I thought a new technology fund proposal was no big deal — the district was just going to be moving $3.5 million out of the General Fund into a new technology fund and it would be tax neutral. But that is not the case — the school board wants to move $2 million that had been allocated for technology out of the General Fund into the new technology fund as well — thus making the new ongoing annual technology fund $5.5 million ($3.5 million from the new tax levy plus $2 million reallocated from the General Fund).

This level of technology spending amounts to a 57% annual increase in technology spending (pre-COVID), which is an extreme increase. Additionally, the school board wants to use the remaining $1.5 million per year of General Fund dollars that had been used for technology to now be used for yet undefined student/classroom needs.

I’d like to see the studies (not written or funded by technology companies or lobbyists) that show spending more money on technology leads to higher test scores and proficiency. Otherwise, my suggestion to the PLSAS School Board is to go back to the teaching strategies of 20-30 years ago when grades were higher by focusing more on teaching basic reading, writing, math, natural sciences and critical thinking skills and by spending less time and money for professional development of teachers and indoctrination of children related to social justice issues that teach children to believe their country is inherently racist, that systemic racism is everywhere and that some of their classmates have much to apologize for simply because they were born with a certain skin color.

If we eliminated the time and money we are spending today on social justice initiatives advocated by the school board, the teacher’s union and the state of Minnesota, maybe we would have more money to devote to the technology needs of the district without having to increase taxes via a new levy.

William Markert

Prior Lake