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EDUCATION Department increases textbook allocations

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TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ It may be less than the amount actually needed, but state educators are cheering the Oklahoma Department of Education's decision to increase state textbook allocations by 72 percent for this year.

The funding equals $55 per student, well above the $32 districts were getting.

State education officials decided on the $55 per student allocation because it is the average price of a textbook over the past five years.

``You used to be able to buy pretty good books for $25 or $30. Now it's $85 or $90,'' Tulsa Memorial Principal John McGinnis said.

Textbook prices have risen because software is now included with most books, said Mary Boren, the state's director of instructional materials.

``A spelling book with black and white words won't cut it anymore . 5/8. 5/8. Most instructional materials from the big companies now have computer-linked stuff with them,'' Boren said.

At Tulsa Edison High School, the increased textbook funding will allow for more updated texts in the classroom, said Principal Steve Mayfield.

``You can almost always just replace instead of replenish with a new edition,'' Mayfield said. ``This will make us able to update on a more regular basis.''

Smaller districts may benefit from additional textbook funding the most. They do not have the option of passing bond issues every year and usually can not afford to use those bond issues to fund textbooks, said Rita Pate, business manager for Collinsville Public Schools.

``Most of our bond issues are building bond issues because we need to keep our buildings maintained,'' Pate said.

Collinsville will receive $96,633 for textbooks this year, compared with $56,029 last year.

``In the past we'd spent double of what we'd been receiving (from the state),'' she said.

The annual $55 per student funding should be enough for several years since textbook prices stay relatively fixed.

Each year, the state picks a different school subject and takes bids from textbook companies on how low their individual textbooks in that subject will be sold for.

Most districts follow that cycle and buy textbooks for a particular subject when the state takes bids.

But if a district decides to buy books from that subject at another time, the prices negotiated by the state are fixed for the next six years.
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