Duluth voters again asked for school tech money – Star Tribune

DULUTH — Residents here will face a repeat school finance question in a special May referendum, a question they narrowly rejected in November’s general election.
Voters are being asked for a property tax increase to raise $52 million over the next decade to bankroll a Duluth Public Schools technology program. The same issue was rejected by 291 votes in November.
Superintendent John Magas said this week the swift turnaround not only capitalizes on that tight loss, but is necessary as it anticipates cuts to employees and programs next year without more money to dedicate to an increasingly critical aspect of education.
A difference this time is shifting more potential money to career and technical education, a growing sector in Duluth schools that suffers from antiquated equipment in its design and engineering programs, among others.
“We are in dire need,” said Danette Seboe, a school administrator in charge of career and technical education. “These programs are incredibly popular. They are typically full. We’re using those rooms every hour of every day.”
Nearly half of the district’s high school students took a career or technical course last year.
The owner of a $315,000 home — Duluth’s latest average price — would pay an extra $130 a year if the measure is approved.
The money would allow the district to replace as needed its more than 8,000 devices for student learning, including Chromebooks and iPads, along with outdated Smartboards and software. It would strengthen cyber and building security and improve staff technology training. It would also go toward replacement of expensive equipment used in robotics, welding and other trade classes. It will cost $45,000 to replace three 3D printers, for example, and $700,000 for three labs of industry standard computers for engineering and graphic arts.
Voters did approve a smaller schools ask last fall on the two-question ballot that allowed it to refinance existing debt.
Jana Hollingsworth is a reporter covering a range of topics in Duluth and northeastern Minnesota for the Star Tribune. Sign up to receive the new North Report newsletter.
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