An infusion of $10 million into school budgets for textbooks and supplies was a great shot in the arm but not a long-range cure, legislators were told Wednesday.
Reporting to the Legislature's Education Interim Committee, Bonnie Morgan said 33 of the state's 40 school districts used their share of the $10 million appropriated in 1990 solely to purchase textbooks. Four said they divided the money between books and supplies; two added "other materials" such as maps and electronic equipment; and one spent the entire amount on supplies.Morgan, a curriculum specialist in the State Office of Education, told the committee that the one-time appropriation helped many of the districts re-establish a purchasing cycle for books, allowing for replacement of texts every five to six years. Textbooks have to be replaced periodically because material becomes dated and textbooks wear out, she said.
"The greatest advantage is in getting a textbook for each child in each subject," she said. Many schools had complained of not having enough texts for every child, and students were sharing books in the classroom. In some instances children couldn't take books home for homework because of shortages.
The public perception of education also got a boost from the upgrading of textbook and supply stocks, Morgan said.
Sen. David Steele, R-Davis, however, told fellow legislators they "can't be complacent. We can't think we've done enough." Steele, an employee of the Davis School District central staff, said the importance of up-to-date school texts will grow as national education goals are implemented. The textbook/supply budget increase granted on a one-time basis should be built into the funding base, he said.
With the costs of textbooks escalating faster than other goods, schools will continue to be pressed to keep up, he said. The price of some texts, such as science and math books, has doubled or even tripled in the past 10 years.
Sen. Scott N. Howell, D-Salt Lake, said school districts should be visionary, watching trends that portend an increasing role for technology in the classroom. "We need to change the way we think."
However, said Bruce Griffin, associate state superintendent, even if computer diskettes ultimately replace printed texts in the classroom, costs are not likely to go down significantly.