Spending on textbooks dips in Mississippi

By The Associated Press

JACKSON — School districts across Mississippi spent $22 million on textbooks last year.

The Clarion-Ledger reports (http://on.thec-l.com/w70yaQ ) that figure is a decrease from the 2008-09 school year when the reported textbook expenses totaled $36 million, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

Amounts spent vary by district. Education Department records show most have reported decreases over the past three years.

Districts adopt textbooks for different subjects based on the department’s textbook adoption cycle. The book costs vary, so spending fluctuates from year to year.

The number of books purchased is determined by districts.

In districts with enough money for new technology, students also are working on laptops, smartphones, electronic tablets and interactive white boards.

One reason for the decrease was districts trying to absorb budget cuts. Another is a growing effort to engage a generation that has grown up with digital technology.

That doesn’t mean textbooks are gone from the classroom.

“Textbooks are a valuable teaching tool. However, as an effective teacher knows, the textbook is not the only resource,” Rita Windham, superintendent of Enterprise schools, said in an email.

In DeSoto County schools, there aren’t automatic purchases of textbooks with each adoption.

For example, U.S. history books were adopted last year but not purchased. If something in the newer books needs to be taught, teachers can use supplementary materials to fill in the gaps until funding is in place for new books, Jennifer Weeks, assistant superintendent of academic education, said through a district spokeswoman.

There also are digital resources, such as computers. Teachers also have “flooded the classroom with text,” Weeks said.

Books, like everything else, “are always driven by if our budget’s cut,” Weeks said. “That is an area you have to look at to trim back on if the money’s not there.”

Teachers in the district follow the guidelines set by the state Department of Education, she said.

“Their lessons are carefully prepared and presented. Often times the textbook is a secondary resource,” she said.