Should textbooks or technology be Texas’ spending priority?

Some Texas legislators say a 19th-century concept of learning is holding back the state from bringing school technology into the present, reports the Austin American-Statesman. Back in 1854, legislators guaranteed Texas schoolchildren access to free textbooks by establishing an educational endowment known as the Permanent School Fund. And though textbooks are now frequently giving way to digital media in the classroom, state spending on school technology, such as computers and internet connectivity, has been dwarfed by the resources put toward textbooks. State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, said he is concerned that the state is wasting its resources on "old vehicles" because some people believe a textbook is necessary for conveying knowledge to students. "A textbook is a vehicle for content," Branch said. "That vehicle is quickly becoming a horse and buggy."
Since 1992, the state has allocated $30 per student for technology each year, which totals about $134 million in the current budget. The bill for textbooks in the 2008-09 budget was $496 million and will reach $913 million in the upcoming budget. Almost all of the $1.15 billion from the Permanent School Fund in the 2010-11 budget will be needed to pay for textbooks. Branch, a member of the House Public Education Committee, would like to use some money from the textbook fund to pay for technology hardware so that more students can access lessons electronically. But the Texas attorney general said in a 2006 opinion that textbook funds must be used for "conveying information" and cannot be used for purchasing hardware…

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