Textbook purchases fall short of needs

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Just when it seemed the financial challenges facing North Carolina educators and schools could loom no larger, now comes news of a huge shortfall in the amount of money the state is spending on textbooks.

The N.C. General Assembly has shirked its responsibility, no matter which party has been in charge.

When Democrats held a majority of seats in 2009, they cut funding for textbooks by almost 80 percent – from $111.2 million to $2.5 million.

The picture improved slightly when Republicans took control, but textbook funding now stands at $23 million – barely a fifth of what it was only a few years ago.

Textbooks aren’t cheap. They generally cost between $39 and $86 each, and that doesn’t even count the supplemental materials, such as workbooks, that often accompany them.

The state spent an average of $67.15 per student on textbooks in 2008-09. Today, North Carolina spends an average of $14.26 per student for textbooks. Between that low amount and the state’s stingy approach to teachers’ salaries, it’s a wonder there’s anyone – or any material – left to teach.

Gov. Pat McCrory has vowed to make teachers’ salaries a priority in 2014. It’s time to make sure textbooks get their due, as well.

North Carolina leaders can hardly expect to see grand results in the classroom if they’re not willing to invest in the cause.