The Asheville Citizen Times reports today that a reduction in state funding for textbooks will force many Buncombe County students this fall to share their books, or rely on textbooks more than a decade old.
Here’s an excerpt from reporter Julie Ball’s story:
“I have students who come to me every year, and they’ll say I don’t understand why I don’t have a textbook for this class,” Owen High Principal Meg Turner said.
State funding for textbooks has dropped since 2009-10 from more than $111 million or about $76 per student to $23.3 million this year or $15.37 per student, according to Eric Moore, with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
For Buncombe County Schools, funding dropped from around $1.7 million in 2008-09 to around $368,000 in the most recent school year. That’s about $14.26 per student.
State officials say the average cost of a textbook is around $60. High school textbooks can cost around $100, Turner said.
Rather than buying a book for each student, Owen High has been purchasing classroom sets of books that are used by multiple students and remain in the classroom.
“So you might have a set of 30 books to keep in the classroom and the teachers would use those and kids couldn’t take them home,” Turner said.
Turner said some textbooks are available online, but there’s also a cost to those as well.
“My understanding is it has become common practice. Teachers get one classroom set of textbooks now. They do not get one set for each class,” said Anna Stearns, who has a son at Owen High.
Stearns said during her son’s freshman year she spoke with his math teacher to try to find out why her son didn’t have any math homework. Stearns said the teacher told her the school didn’t have textbooks or graphing calculators for students to take home.
Stearns worries about the lack of math practice at home and whether her son will be prepared for out-of-class work that will be required once he gets to college.
Buncombe County Rep. Susan Fisher is also worried about textbook funding. Fisher sat down for an interview with Chris Fitzsimon last weekend to discuss the state budget. In addition to adequate classroom resources, Fisher remains concerned about teacher compensation and changes to longevity pay.