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Parents and teachers protested a decision to hold off on buying new textbooks at the San Diego Unified school board last night, complaining that books were falling apart and needed to be replaced with new texts that come with CDs and other digital materials.

“Some of my students don’t even recognize what a cassette player looks like, but that’s what we’re using in the classroom,” said Alan Svidal, a world languages resource teacher who said he was working with a French textbook that was copyrighted in 1998.

The board balked at spending nearly $10 million to replace textbooks last month. State rules limit the school district to spending the money on instructional materials such as textbooks and workbooks that students fill out. School board members argued last month that they should fight the state to get permission to use the funds elsewhere during the budget crisis, and said it made little sense to pour money into textbooks as the school district tries to move towards digital learning with laptops and online lessons.

“We are not totally anti-textbook,” school board President Shelia Jackson said Tuesday night. “What we are saying is we need to make better use of our funding.”

Staffers presented a slimmed down plan to the school board Tuesday night that cost only $1.5 million and would replace only K-2 mathematics “consumables” — workbooks that students use annually. Gone from the plan was $480,000 in Advanced Placement textbooks for schools that are offering the classes for the first time, $551,000 in economics textbooks, and a wide array of high school and middle school textbooks in subjects ranging from German to pre-algebra. The board approved the plan unanimously.

But parents and teachers complained that the cheaper plan would still strand many classes with dated books. Schools are still far from the digital dream, they argued, and the school board jumped the gun by shortchanging textbooks before laptops and other technology were installed in all schools. The new books would likely come along with CDs.

“A large number of our students do not have access to computers,” said Wayne Bartos, a retired teacher who now works as a professor of teacher education at Azusa Pacific University. “How will they get equal access [to textbooks] as required by law?”

Jackson asked the staff to return with more information on which textbook expenses were absolutely necessary and which could be foregone in the budget crisis. School board member Katherine Nakamura, who felt that the board should have approved the initial, more expensive textbook plan, complained that the delay was unnecessary.

“Our students have told us, our parents have told us — we need these textbooks and we need them now,” Nakamura said.


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