10/12/13 — Schools talk textbook shortage

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Schools talk textbook shortage

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 12, 2013 11:58 PM

Between budget cuts and districts having to adopt an entirely new curriculum all at once, every school has the possibility of a textbook shortage, officials said.

State funding has been cut dramatically in recent years, particularly in the area of textbooks.

In 2008-2009, the allotment for Wayne County Public Schools to purchase books was $1.2 million. That dropped to $782,178 in 2009-10 and then plummeted to $32,756 the following year.

In the years since, it has been increased, with this year's allotment set at $274,591.

But textbooks are very expensive, creating a "shuffle game," said Ken Derksen, public information officer for the school district.

"The district has had to be very creative at how it addresses textbook shortages," he said.

Sometimes, schools can trade off with another school.

And in most cases, the deficit can be addressed before the first day of school, he said.

But then enrollment numbers shift and, in turn, dictate where books are needed.

It used to be that school districts rotated textbook purchases every five years -- alternating the subject area books bought each year.

But since 2007-08, when the state reversions picked up and districts were required to send money back to supplement the state budget, that all changed, Dr. Sandra McCullen, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said.

"It takes about $1 million to get a whole K-12 curriculum," she said, noting that amount is just for one subject area, not all textbooks across the board.

Because of the prohibitive price tag, the district has resorted to relying on "replacement books" as much as possible.

"Some of them are so old, we can't even order them anymore," she said.

With the introduction of the Common Core, school systems are having to introduce an entirely new curriculum all at once, and all during a budget deficit, Executive Director of Information Technology Services David Lewis added.

"We have been doing it with other resources," Mrs. McCullen said. "Our teachers are going online. They're finding resources in other areas that are not costing us anything."

It's an interesting situation when considering all the budget cuts as they intersect with curriculum changes, Derksen said.

Fortunately, in this technology age, educators are not limited to having students share books or check them out or handing out reprints of workbook pages.

"There are so many resources that are now available. The textbook now is only one resource when it comes to instruction," he said.

School Board Member Arnold Flowers said he was concerned about reports of students not having textbooks.

"When we hear that, we go to the source -- to the teachers," Mrs. McCullen said. "The teachers aren't (always) using textbooks. They're using other resources."

If the situation warrants it, Flowers said he would favor pulling money from the district budget and applying it toward purchasing the needed materials.

Board member Dr. Dwight Cannon said he appreciated the "innovation" the school system has used to access technology.

Mrs. McCullen said in some cases, particularly in science and math, what is found online will be more up-to-date than what the textbook contains.

Conversations about the situation are ongoing and it remains a "budget issue," she said.

"We're talking millions of dollars," she said. "One set of K-12 (books) is over a million dollars, for one subject."