7/15/2009 4:01 PM
The elected members of the State Board of Education today had choice words for House Bill 4294 – the electronic computerized textbook bill pushed by laptop manufacturers. No elected board member even tried to defend the bill. They questioned both the premise of the bill and how would be interpreted. Here are a few of the major flash-points from today’s board meeting:
1. The requirement to place a classroom set of traditional books in classrooms that use electronic texts. “What the sam-hill is a classroom set,” asked board member Pat Hardy (R-Fort Worth). Hardy asked whether it was 25, 35, or how many. Officials with the Texas Education Agency told Hardy that would be an issue for commissioner’s rulemaking and the real rub could occur in the elementary grades where there is one classroom, so a classroom set could be the equivalent of a book for every classroom.
2. Support – or lack thereof for teachers. When describing the bill, Hardy lambasted the bill and the Legislature and argued this bill had negligible teacher support. “They realize like you that this isn’t going to work,” said board member Terri Leo (R-Spring) of the bill.
3. The executive order – there were questions raised at the board meeting as to exactly what the executive order did and how effective it would be.
4. Graduation requirements – Lawmakers passed the electronic textbook bill, arguing that students need to learn more using technology, yet the accountability bill – HB 3 – removes technology applications from the required curriculum.
5. Vendor bill -- Board members argued that the use of electronic textbooks was allowed under prior law, and that HB 4294 was simply a ploy by computer companies to increase the state dollars they get. “It’s a vendor bill … They’ve always wanted to tap into the Permanent School Fund,” said Board member Geraldine “Tincy” Miller (R-Dallas). When the debate ended, State Board member David Bradley (R-Beaumont) quipped, “The Permanent School Fund will be heavily weighted toward computer stocks, so maybe we’ll get some of this money back.”
HB 4294 may be law now. But the debate and political repercussions of the bill have only yet begun.