Budget crisis impacts school textbooks

August 10, 2009 6:57:56 PM PDT
The state's cash-crunch will affect school children in classrooms all over California. Fewer teachers and programs, you've heard about that. But no money also means no new textbooks.

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When California kids go back to public school this year, most will have old textbooks. In fact, the state won't even order any new ones at least until 2014, thanks to budget cuts.

"We're talking about five years here. For school-aged children, five years is a long time. Today's fourth grader will be entering high school in five years," said public school lobbyist Peter Birdsall.

The budget cuts to education are so deep, Sacramento is allowing school districts to use this year's $330 million earmarked for textbooks to pay for other things.

"Between books and people, we landed on people," said Elk Grove School Superintendent Steven Ladd.

Many, like the Elk Grove School District, California's fifth largest, are choosing to spend their $3.5 million textbook allocation on teachers.

"We don't teach just from a textbook. We use that as a way to add to the many took in the tool kit for delivery of 21st century education," said Ladd.

But a number of classrooms in California still don't have computer access for every student. So those kids are going to have to keep using their old textbooks, meaning some history books won't include Barack Obama as the first black President, or science books may not talk about global warming.

That worries Kisha Davis, who wonders about the quality of her children's education.

"It's a huge concern. It makes you wonder what they're expecting kids to learn and how they're expecting to learn," said Davis.

The textbook industry saw fewer than 200 California districts place order this year, only one third of expectation.

"We're basically putting everything on a hold button for five years and that can't be good for anybody," said Craig Greenwood from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing.

The State Board of Education won't approve new books until 2016 at the earliest. That gives school districts time to buy the books that are already approved for purchase but can't afford.

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