In the midst of a new UCPS controversy alleging abuse of special needs children, which was brought to light by their parents, a second controversy emerged at last weeks School Board meeting concerning the lack of text-books in Union County schools.
Monroe parent Heather Henage spoke to the school board in detail about the shortage of text-book materials at her children’s school.
Ms. Henage’s reported that during her research into the lack of text books at her children’s elementary school, she received a number of curious responses from UCPS.
“At the high school level some classes are provided text-book sets for use; however funding has not been allocated by the state for individual student copies.”
“Elementary schools have not been provided funds from the state to support a district-wide adoption in the four core areas, thus there are no district wide text counts required.”
“Digital text specifically, have not been purchased for the school system for high school middle school and elementary schools, many of the digital text are the same cost as traditional text books.”
Ms. Henage points out, “Based on these quotes, the bottom line is that our students don’t have texts, digital or print. It’s hard for me to comprehend how UCPS got into this situation.” She went on to mention that UCPS’s per pupil expenditure was $7202.00 in 2014, but (UCPS) only spent $6.04 of that on state approved text. “More shockingly, $0 on State-approved textbooks during the current school year. This level of spending on texts has been typical for UCPS since 2010. We hear repeatedly that the State of North Carolina is to blame because it cut textbook funding.” she continued.
Ms. Henage then asked a series of questions:
“We hear repeatedly that the state of North Carolina is to blame because it is cutting back text-book funding, why has UCPS spent on 20% of the budgeted amounts on state approved texts since 2010, while transferring 51% of the text-book budget to other accounts?”
Why is UCPS sitting on the other 29% of the budgeted amount?
Why does UCPS have $1.5 million of unspent text-book funds?
Between 2010 and 2013, why did UCPS spend $30.1 million on instructional computer equipment? Thirty-five times what it spent on texts during that same period.
It seems that UCPS found money to spend on laptops over those years, but why not on “texts”?
How can high school and middle school study at home when they are using shared classroom sets of text (books)?
Why is UCPS increasing the educational disparity in the county by relying on individual school fundraising to fill in the gaps in funding for texts and classroom materials?
Why does Sun Valley 1.8 textbooks per student, approximately one-third the number of textbooks at Porter Ridge?
Accounting for the Funds
Years ago, the common complaint from school board and administration was that the State locked them into spending specified dollars on specific items. Not only did that cause an accounting system and budget analysis nightmare, it was a disservice to the students. Over the last four years the school system has been granted much more latitude, seemingly, in retrospect, to the detriment of books in the classroom.
I contacted Rep. Craig Horn about the fund shifting by UCPS, as mentioned by Ms. Henage. Mr. Horn responded with the following.
“You may know that the House budget (now in the Senate) includes a requirement that each LEA (Local Education Authority) now specifically report about any money moved out of textbooks and Digital Supplies as well as a better accounting to the public of from and to where money is moved. This requirement does not inhibit the movement, it only requires that the LEA’s be accountable instead of just blaming the State”.
In recent years, North Carolina is making a big push into digital education. The theory often espoused is that through the use of technology, children can learn at there own pace. Admirable right?
Since the introduction of the Dell netbooks into the classroom back in 2010, which was followed by the current multi-year, multi-million dollar purchases of Chromebooks, I’ve been have wondered where the content is coming from. Apparently, that remains an issue. From my own experience of having a student with a Chromebook at home, I can testify that Chromebook was only used from internet content and doing homework in Google Docs. There was no digital content provided by UCPS, textbooks still contributed to a 40lb backpack.
Buying the horses without the oats
Content is everything, as we’ve seen. When will the Chromebooks actually replace a textbook?
Much has been made of the bringing the digital world and the global economy into the classroom. Its is a worthy goal in my view, but it should not be done at the cost of a good education for the children in the schools system today. As the new budget unfolds in coming weeks, we need to place close attention to the UCPS plans and implementation of digital education, to protect those students still living in an analog classroom.