State Sen. Mary Boren has filed legislation aimed at putting more resources directly in the classroom for textbooks and other teaching materials. Her legislation also requires funding allocated for instructional materials is used for that purpose.
Boren, a former educator who has previously worked for both the State Department of Education the State Regents for Higher Education, said Senate Bill 206 would increase the per pupil amount for textbook and other instructional materials, which includes things like e-books, software and other related materials. The measure would increase that amount from $55 to $200.
“When I worked for the Department of Education in 2001, the state was providing $55 per student. Even though costs have risen dramatically since then, that amount is still just $55—plus, during the economic downturn, districts were given the ability to redirect those funds to other areas,” said Boren, D-Norman.
“The combined result is school after school with tattered, outdated and insufficient textbooks and instructional materials and teachers and supporters being forced to plead for donations. If we want our children to be able to compete, they need current textbooks and materials. Forcing teachers and supporters to turn to outside fundraising may help in wealthier districts, but in many communities throughout the state, the resources simply aren’t there and our children are not getting the instructional materials they need to succeed. After looking at other states and visiting with Oklahoma teachers and administrators, it’s clear that $200 is a much more accurate reflection of the actual cost of instructional materials.”
Boren pointed out that since statehood, Oklahoma’s Constitution has required the state to provide textbooks.
“The vision for our public schools was that all children would have an equitable educational opportunity but without adequate state support it cannot happen,” Boren said.
Boren’s legislation would also expand textbook selection committees at the local level to make sure teachers from each school within a district are included in that process.
“Those committees are evaluating material for every grade level, but under the current structure, you may or may not have teachers from all grade levels included,” Boren said. “My language will include teachers from each district’s elementary, middle and high schools on those textbook committees.”
Boren said the investment made in teacher salaries last year was a critical starting point for education in Oklahoma and hopes her legislation will represent the next step.
“As we consider turnaround strategies for our state, it must include an examination of the level of investment our students deserve. Senate Bill 206 gives us that opportunity,” Boren said.