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scores. Reading and math scores were as much as 14 points higher than the state aver- age, while writing scores ranked third in the state, according to the latest figures. Sarasota County Schools is rated an "A" dis- trict, based on almost all schools scoring "A" or "B" in student achievement. The special 1-mill tax offers the school dis- trict the ability to expand opportunities for students, preparing them for a complex job market and world. Through the retention of arts and music teachers, expanding techno- logically advanced classrooms, offering more science education in elementary schools, improving campus security, and providing more guidance coun- selors and assistant principals, the special tax has had a dramatic and positive impact on student success. It is important to note that the question put to voters will refer to a tax increase. However, there is no additional tax. This is simply a question of renewing the tax increase that was first approved by voters in 2002 and renewed in 2006 and 2010. Consider, too, the effects of the housing mar- ket crash and the Great Recession on the funds generated by the 1-mill tax. Before assessed property values declined sharply as a result of the crisis in the housing mar- ket, the 1-mill levy was producing as much as $60 million a year. However, with property valuations declining by a net of more than 25 percent over the past few years, funds avail- able from the tax have likewise declined. That is why the roughly $45 million expected from the continuation of the special 1-mill tax is so important to the continued success of our schools. At the turn of the 20th century, the sum total of human knowledge had taken about 150 years to double. By the end of World War II, it had doubled in only 25 years. Today, human knowledge doubles every year. The amount of information a student must absorb to compete effectively in today's world is exponentially greater than what his parents and grandparents had to face. The challenge is monumental for our schools to stay abreast of that expansion of knowledge and prop- erly prepare students. The 1-mill tax may gen- erate only about one-twelfth of the operating funds available to the school district, but the money is critical when it comes to fulfilling the mission of our schools to enable our chil- dren to compete in our 21st century world. The Sarasota County Schools has done an admirable job of meeting that challenge, with transparency and accountability. Sarasota County voters should give the district the resources it needs to continue that excel- lent record. We urge you to vote "Yes" in the special refer- endum on March 25. % The special 1-mill tax offers the school district the ability to expand opportunities for students, preparing them for a complex job market and world. OPINION Sarasota News Leader February 28, 2014 Page 87

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