In 2018, less than 10 percent of registered voters in Santa Fe cast ballots in the special election that determined school district issues, including bonds for technology and infrastructure. This year, a new mail-in ballot system could at least double the number of voters who participate in the election.
The Santa Fe County clerk sent out ballots on Feb. 5, and voters need to return them in the mail by March 5, giving residents within the boundaries of Santa Fe Public Schools a whole month to make up their minds about whether to renew the 2019 Santa Fe Public Schools five-year education technology note that allows the district to access $11 million each year for the next five years.
Earlier this month, voters in Albuquerque struck down education-related bond proposals in a special election that was similarly decided through New Mexico's new mail-in ballot option. Could greater voter participation through mail-in ballots result in a similar fate for educational tax measures in Santa Fe?
Members of the Santa Fe School Board are optimistic that the majority of voters will choose to renew the bond. School Board Vice President Maureen Cashmon tells SFR, "[The community] understands that our kids are going to need to be highly familiar with technology in order to thrive and excel in a quickly changing tech economy."
"We are in favor of greater voter participation and we are grateful for support that Santa Fe Public Schools has received in the past," says schools spokesman Jeff Gephart.He stresses that the Santa Fe election bond measure will not raise property taxes, but rather reinstate the current rates to provide funding that "will go directly into classrooms and into training teachers."
So what does tech education in the classroom look like? Gephart explains the money goes to public schools and charter schools, and much of it goes toward providing professional development and training for educators, as well as digital learning coaches to help students and teachers make the leap from textbooks to digital devices. Students will be able to access more of their materials from home, and schools will more fully integrate technology into the classroom by providing better tools to all students.
Neal Weaver, director of digital learning at SFPS, says the schools are looking into integrating computer science into all curriculums, including the addition of courses in coding and robotics, as well as providing greater access to tools such as computer labs and portable laptops.
"Santa Fe is a leader in digital technology learning in the state," Weaver says. "We plan to stay ahead of the game."
With the new mail-in system, voting is now easier than ever. Regardless of whether you're one of those anxious parents who keeps on top of every new twist in public school funding and policy or you can't remember the last time you voted on a school-related issue—that ballot is in your mailbox, just waiting for you to fill out a little black oval and stick it back into its return envelope. No stamp required, just make sure to sign your name on the envelope so your vote gets counted. You can also walk-in your ballot to the county clerk before 7 pm on Tuesday March 5.