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Oak Ridge Schools Tech Initiative Faces Critical Test

WUOT News, Matt Moon

The question of whether the city of Oak Ridge will fund a program that aims to put a digital tablet in the hands of every Oak Ridge Public Schools student is in the balance tonight when the city council casts what may be the final vote on its 2015 budget.

The Oak Ridge School Board has asked the city to provide an additional $3.3 million this year to fund the partial roll-out of its 1:1 digital learning initiative.  The program would eventually provide a digital device for every student to use at school and at home. 

To fund it, the school board has suggested a 37-cent property tax increase, the largest such increase in recent history.  An Oak Ridger owning a $100,000 home would pay an additional $15 per month in property taxes.

However, the tax increase proposal has received a cold reception from most members of the city council, which removed the tax hike proposal before approving the budget 6-1 on first reading last Monday.

School Board Chair Keys Fillauer tells WUOT News he doesn’t expect the city council will change its mind about the tax increase when it votes on the second reading of the budget tonight.  However, he says members of the city council and the school board have already begun discussing alternative ways of funding the 1:1 initiative.  “We’re looking and we’re talking,” he says. 

If the board is unable to find another funding alternative, Fillauer says the district will definitely revisit the idea next year.  “If we want to maintain our competitiveness with other schools in our area, we have to do this,” he says.  “That’s where education is going.”