AUSTIN (AP) – Texas lawmakers dealing with a projected $15 billion shortfall in the next two-year spending period have offered base budget proposals without any bucks for new textbooks.
Before a 2009 Texas curriculum overhaul, children were working with science textbooks most recently updated in 1997, the Austin American-Statesman reported late Monday.
Texas, with 4.6 million public school students, is facing tougher testing. The State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness focuses on college readiness and will count toward graduation requirements. A dozen mandatory exams for high school students will be phased in over four years.
The State Board of Education last fall, anticipating a possible state revenue shortfall, asked the Legislature for supplemental science materials accessible online, at a cost of about $60 million. Books would have pushed the cost to $347 million.
Education Commissioner Robert Scott is asking for about $520 million in updated instructional materials for the fall, for online science and new language arts materials based on recently updated standards.
“It’s essential that we have the textbook funding, because if we’re going to implement the new programs, we’ve got to have the instructional materials to make it work,” said state Sen. Florence Shapiro. The legislator from Plano chairs the Senate Education Committee and is head of the Finance Committee’s public education subcommittee.
The state’s education endowment, sometimes known as the textbook fund, is expected to generate about $1.9 billion for public schools in the next two years. The full 15-member State Board of Education, which oversees the fund, last year sent a letter to lawmakers emphasizing the importance of ensuring that a portion of that money be dedicated to course materials.
The request was ignored.
“Was I surprised? No,” said David Bradley, a board member from Beaumont. “Was I disappointed? Yes. But it is just the base budget. This is something that needs to be negotiated and discussed.”
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