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Texas Insider

Electronic textbooks

This is interesting.

[State Rep. Dan] Branch won unanimous approval for HB 4294, which would require the Texas education commissioner to adopt a list of electronic textbooks and instructional materials from which schools could select electronic textbooks or instructional materials to purchase.

It’s time that school districts allow students to use computers to access more information electronically, Branch said. It also will save money.

According to the House Research Organization bill analysis, the bill would “give school districts the ability to purchase electronic books or other instructional materials that were vetted and less expensive, rather than being forced to buy textbooks that sit in a warehouse. Around the state, warehouses are filled with unused printed textbooks due to reluctance to issue textbooks to each student for fear they might lose or damage them. When each textbook costs on average between $50 and $75, it becomes clear that the state must be smarter about the use of state dollars.”

How often do schools really not give out textbooks because of fear they may get lost? I wouldn’t have thought that would be permissible – aren’t all students supposed to receive whatever materials they’re entitled to? Be that as it may, I think this bill is reasonable. If electronic textbooks make sense in certain situations and can save money, then they should be allowed. Who knows, maybe some day we’ll issue kids a Kindle or something like it and deliver all textbooks that way.

I had not heard of this bill before Saturday, and if it passed unanimously without me coming across any alarms from the education community and its supporters, I figure it must be okay, or at least innocuous. But not everyone feels that way.

Although no lawmakers protested, there is some opposition. Texas Insider Publisher Jim Cardle has asked his subscribers to call legislators. Cardle calls the bill, which has not yet cleared the Senate, “a blatant vendor bill that will allows computer companies, not textbook providers, to sell Texas low-end equipment that will become dated in two to four years.”

As you know, I don’t consider Cardle or Texas Insider to be a particularly credible source. I did receive the email Cardle sent out about this, which I’ve reproduced beneath the fold. I think he’s being overwrought, but you can judge for yourself.