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N.C. deals with textbook funding cuts

RALEIGH Schools across North Carolina are dealing with a sharp cut in funding to buy textbooks for students.

State funding for textbook purchases has been reduced by nearly 80 percent over the past four years, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

The state provided more than $111 million to buy textbooks during the 2009-10 fiscal year. For the past three years, it’s been about $23 million annually.

School districts are getting about $14 per student for textbooks. That compares with about $67 per student in the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Drew Fairchild with textbook services at the Department of Public Instruction says most of the money for elementary schools goes to buy workbooks, not textbooks.

Fairchild says new books cost between $39 and $86 each.

North Carolina negotiates textbook prices and has continued to adopt new textbooks to reflect changes in curriculum.

Fairchild said many districts have not been able to buy many of the new books.

Many schools are buying just a few textbooks for each subject. That doesn’t allow students to take books home.

Lawmakers approved a bill this year saying the General Assembly plans to shift from funding paper to digital textbooks by 2017.

School districts do not yet know how they will deal with that change, since most districts do not yet have a computer for each student.

The law does not include state funding for digital devices.

State superintendent of public instruction June Atkinson said it could cost $75 million to provide schools with the devices, not counting the funding for digital content.

Atkinson said the General Assembly could help by boosting textbook funding.

“We have to recognize that students learn in a different way now,” she said. “This will be a huge switch for parents.”

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