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July 08, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, July 08, 2005

Schools inherit a windfall Schools inherit a windfall (July 08, 2005)

Even though it the city is home to some of the biggest names in high technology, Mountain View's schools are not known as trendsetters in high-tech education.

That could change soon, as the Mountain View-Whisman elementary and Mountain View-Los Altos high school districts begin to offer classes made possible by a $400,000 annual grant to each school from the Shoreline Regional Park Community. For many years, property taxes that would have gone to other agencies, including the high school district, have been plowed back into Shoreline area for improvements to benefit the businesses there.

But last week, the city council and boards of the two school districts all endorsed a new joint powers district that will funnel the $800,000 in tax revenue to the two school districts to strengthen technological education and thus prepare students to become part of the city's high-tech workforce.

It is no surprise that the districts voted in favor of a deal that would net them hundreds of thousands a year. But the city deserves special credit for finding a way to help local schools despite facing its own budget crunch. Setting aside the funds for technology was necessary to justify the transfer from the Shoreline community.

For the high school district, board member Judy Hannemann said the money could be used on new media and technology at "Freestyle High," a digital multimedia learning center already on the drawing board that is slated to open in the fall of 2006.

At Mountain View-Whisman, board member Fiona Walter said there is more work to do. First, the district is likely to conduct a needs assessment, she said, and then hire a person to guide develop a plan to improve technology in the elementary and middle schools.

The cooperation and sharing of revenue between the city and school districts is impressive, and ultimately will pay off in better education for local students who may want to embark on a career in high technology.

And the size of the grant should not be overlooked. When they authorized the agreement at separate meetings last week, the city and districts voted to continue the annual grants for 15 years, which will funnel a whopping $6 million to each school district.

By taking responsibility for high-tech education for such a long period, whatever monies the districts had earmarked for that purpose now will be freed up for other uses, and thus impact the entire school budget. As a result, the effect of the Shoreline grants will be much greater and far reaching.

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