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The Crisis: California's Text Book Crisis

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Do California students need more textbooks and materials?


• Approximately 2 million students cannot take textbooks home to do homework.
• More then half a million students do not have textbooks to use in class.
• These problems occur twice as often for low -income students of color.
• Teachers lack other essential materials like graph paper, calculators, and lab equipment. Gradual increases in the supply can’t catch up to the need. Following the present course, millions of California’s students will spend most of their school years without enough books and materials.

Why is the textbook shortage a serious problem?


• Textbooks provide students with knowledge (through text, pictures and exercises).
• Taking a textbook home allows students to learn more from homework.
• Textbooks cover material students need to pass important tests (for example, starting next year, students must pass the High School Exit Exam to get a diploma).
• Textbooks are necessary to prepare for college.
• Teachers rely heavily on textbooks, especially less experienced teachers.
With each passing semester, California school children miss learning opportunities. Over the years of schooling, these lost opportunities add up to poor chances for college success and prosperity in the workplace.

Is California on the right track to solve its textbook crisis?


• California does not require that schools provide textbooks
to students.
• The State does not give enough money to school districts to buy textbooks and materials for all students.
• State education officials do not know, nor do they try to find out how much it costs for all students to have enough textbooks and materials.
• Official groups that visit and evaluate schools do not ask if all students have enough textbooks and materials.
• The State does not enforce reporting requirements that would tell the public how many textbooks are available to students.
California cannot solve its textbook and materials crisis because it does not admit that a crisis exists.

What should California do to solve its textbook and materials crisis?


• California should require schools to have enough textbooks and materials for all students for every class, and to take home.
• California should make sure that districts have the funds to purchase enough textbooks and materials.
• California should require that districts report how many textbooks and materials they have for students and then follow-up by investigating problems.
• California should tell the public which schools provide adequate resources (including textbooks and materials) and which do not.

Some people are afraid that it would cost too much to give all students the resources they need. In fact, no one knows how much it would cost. The State must not be afraid to gather information about students’ resources and opportunities. Only then can Californians understand the challenges and make the necessary changes.

Sources: Oakes, J. with Saunders, M. (2002) Access to Textbooks, Instructional Materials, Equipment, and Technology: Inadequacy and Inequity in California’s Public Schools. Los Angeles: UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, & Access.
Harris, P. Research Group (2002) Survey of California Teachers.
References available at