In Texas, the Permanent School Fund is used to pay for new textbooks each year. With the economy in the dumpster, the fund's reserves are too low to pay for new textbooks, it has been concluded by those charged with such things. This is especially a shame since the State Board of Education puts a lot of time and effort (if not always intelligence) into arguing over what's in those textbooks (especially evolution).
So what's the big deal if the kids just use the same textbooks next year? Well, besides the fact that textbooks have a tendency to go lost from year to year, the SBOE, in its infinite wisdom, voted to extensively overhaul the English curriculum for next year from grade school on up. That will be kind of hard to do if the new books aren't forthcoming.
State representatives Diane Patrick from Arlington and Donna Howard from Austin also point out that new math books won't be coming through for next fall without the legislature stepping up. In a co-authored op-ed piece that appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, they say the money can be found elsewhere in the budget and that under the Texas Consitution, "the state has the basic duty to 'provide free textbooks' for public school children." Of course that doesn't say "new" free textbooks.
Anyway, according to a report on the Texas Classroom Teachers Association website, the Texas Education Agency has estimated the new textbook bill for the next two years at about $500 million. And so the 81st Legislature, now in session, will be asked to fork over the money for that. Texas legislators like to talk about the importance of education for the future of our children. Let's see how they do on walking the talk.
-- Margaret Downing
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