Chris Malone: More to the textbook money story

January 1, 2014 

Regarding your Dec. 17 news story “N.C. schools deal with fewer dollars for textbooks” and related editorial: If you want to claim that we have too many “empty bookbags” and not enough money being put into textbook funding, that’s fine, but fair reporting needs to be part of the discussion. I agree with your general assumption and have in committee argued for more spending on textbooks. Books are after all the primary reference guide to learning.

But it is fair for me to ask that one point be corrected. Let’s start by restating your numbers in a more illustrative manner. A 99 percent cut on books (from $111 million to $2.5 million) by Democrats in 2009 was, even in admittedly bad times, a case of deeply irresponsible budgeting. Republicans’ increasing that budgetary line item by 9 to 10 times over that awful baseline is simply a good first step.

Now let’s discuss your mistaken claim, which goes to what can be argued as a strong second step. Your story said, “No money is set aside for computers or other digital devices for every student.” In fact, nearly $30 million was set aside in the budget in each of the next two years for digital learning and technology: almost $12 million in lottery funds and $18 million from the Civil Fines and Forfeiture Fund allocated to the School Technology Fund.

Additionally, Local Education Agencies have been given wide latitude to move money across allocations and to spend money how they think it best meets the individual needs of their districts, so funding like the $43 million for classroom supplies or the $200 million for low wealth could be used on textbooks as well.

I wholeheartedly agree we need to do more, but let’s attempt to be fair in our reporting and general discourse. Responsible journalism is as much a key to a vibrant constitutional republic, as books are to learning. Without either we are at less than our best.

Rep. Chris Malone, Wake Forest

The writer, a Republican, represents District 35 in the N.C. House. The length limit was waived.

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