(Follow-up taken from a Facebook post by a man who tried to buy a textbook so he could help some kids with their math. That post precedes this one now, as I shifted it toward the front.)
My own editorializing led me to blog the following:
“Eduhonesty: Let’s start with the idea of $540 books. Who believes this does not discriminate fiercely against financially-disadvantaged districts? At those prices, only the wealthy will regularly see new books.”
I have thought about that post in the last day or two. I live in an economically-privileged district. My walking buddy lives in a similar district. Last year, she spent $400 for her younger son’s high school math books. My girls are in graduate school, but I remember writing a $1,200 check for school materials one year. Here’s the whammy in those expensive textbooks: In our financially-advantaged districts, districts may get parents to buy the books.* In poorer, districts, no one may buy the books.
In impoverished districts, parents obviously can’t write those checks. Schools supply the textbooks for the year. Those books don’t get replaced very often. Corners are often cut in the purchasing process with only part of a series purchased. The district where I taught had some software sitting for months one year, because the district had purchased the software but not the support, and staff could not figure out the software without the support.
I honestly don’t see the solution to this disparity in available materials short of changing how America funds education. I do want to flag the problem, though. The kids who most need help and support get the short end of this stick, that’s for sure.
It’s some years back in the past, so I don’t think I have a picture, but I vividly remember an aged textbook that I issued to one student. The front had a place for students to write their name on the left and the book’s condition on the right. We were on about name number eight. Condition had started at good, gone to fair, gone to poor and the last entry said “OMG!!” We had a good laugh. I probably said something like, “Well, you don’t have to worry about accidentally dropping this one in a puddle!” There are some scary old books out there.
I think Stan Wayne’s indignation about that $540 book should be more than a blip on the educational radar. I am guessing his district is doing without those books because they can’t afford the new Common Core materials. They can’t use the old materials because they don’t match the Common Core, but they can’t afford to load up on $540 books either, especially since the Core’s future seems slightly uncertain. This situation screams probable economic discrimination. In the district where I live, motivated parents most likely can buy those books. In much of America, though, $540 represents the month’s food budget, and many families don’t have $540 per book to spare.
Eduhonesty: Here’s a sideways thought that merits consideration: Maybe financially-comfortable politicians and educational administrators ought to consider more carefully the costs of the programs they mandate. The Common Core is resulting in a surge of book and materials purchases as districts attempt to prepare students for new standardized tests based on the Core. When the books all have to be edited or rewritten to match the new program and tests, the costs fall most heavily on those who can least afford those absurdly-priced books.
*I hope the schools help those who can’t afford $400 for math books. I’ve honestly never enquired or even thought about this before yesterday. What if you can’t write that $1,200 check?