School Textbooks Could Soon Be Shelved

Oct 9, 2012

Paper-based textbooks in Florida classrooms could soon be a thing of the past. The State Board of Education is considering asking lawmakers to do away with the requirement that school districts purchase new books every few years.

“I would like to see the state of Florida eliminate entirely textbook adoption. The purpose being to allow our students to have the best learning materials in the classroom," said State Board Member Roberto Martinez, who put the idea before the board.

It’s the latest move  in recent years to steer schools to more digitally-based learning methods. The state legislature even passed a bill to put schools on a path to digital learning by 2016.

But going digital won't be easy. And Martinez' proposal could face stiff opposition from a large and powerful lobbying group-- the textbook industry.

“Once we say this is our priority, we need to schedule hearings, you need to get board members in front of them who they’ve supported financially, that they know. All that stuff matters. Otherwise, all it is publishers lobbyists walking the halls  everyday writing checks for as long as they can write checks, and we’re nothing to them,” said state board of education member Kathleen Shanahan.

The State Board of Education wants $15 billion dollars next year to fund the state's K-12 public schools and community and state colleges. Included in that budget proposal is a request for  $440 million  to go toward purchasing equipment such as computers, kindles, i-Pads and other devices, and  helping schools shore up their internet capacity to actually run the software students may use.

A preliminary report from the workgroup  formed to study Florida's transition to digital learning, says the state will have to purchase about a million more devices to get to a ratio of three students per two devices.

Right now, there are more than 1600 schools that don't have wireless internet service, and 263 schools without basic broadband access.

For more news updates, follow Lynn Hatter on Twitter @HatterLynn