Fewer new books in TX classrooms?

HOUSTON State lawmakers are considering a $100 million cut to textbook funding. Texas usually pays for textbooks out of an existing fund and does not have to budget for them, but when Wall Street tanked that fund didn't have enough money anymore.

Now there is a big debate in Austin about how much Texas schools need for books and how much the state is willing to afford.

The students at HISD's Horn Elementary rely on help from their textbooks in a lot of subjects. When they're finished with them for the year, the school saves them for next year's students.

What happens when there isn't money to buy enough new books?

"It makes no sense," said mother Maggie Solomon.

Solomon is a parent of a fifth grader at Horn and she is the president of Parents for Public Schools, a group that advocates for good public education.

"If we're expecting our kids to compete globally and nationally as well, then we're going to have to give them the materials that they need to succeed," said Solomon.

The issue is how much money the Texas Education Agency will get for textbooks in 2010. TEA wants more than $547 million, but the legislature may give it 25% less.

"We're gonna have kids without books. The wealthy districts will be able buy extra textbooks over and above what the state pays for. The poor districts, the kids who need the most, won't have the books," said Gayle Fallon of the Houston Federation of Teachers.

It has educators worried enough that the TEA Education Commissioner sent a letter to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst this week, in which he wrote the lower amount would mean, "one million fewer books in Literature and English language arts, with some subjects and grade levels eliminated."

The letter went on to say that "cutting funding by that amount would undermine students' instruction in the core curriculum."

Fallon said, "This is just the wrong thing to do."

Most on the education side acknowledge that textbook companies could charge less for their books, but not 25% less. That is why Solomon finds herself fighting for her son and for all the kids at Horn Elementary.

The final vote on the funding has not happened yet, though there was plenty of discussion about it in both the Senate and House this week, so we should know soon what that final funding number will be.

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