City Schools Have Hard Time Getting Textbooks

Article excerpt

It's December. The school year is nearly half over, and Andrew Scharfenberg's seventh-grader at Rock Quarry Middle School still doesn't have a math textbook.

To help his child with math homework, he surfs the Internet looking for answers. But that hasn't been much help.

"I was trying to help my kid with math, and I couldn't because we didn't have a textbook," Scharfenberg said, addressing the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education on Tuesday. "We were looking online for how to do some math problems, but we were spinning our wheels.

"I'm very concerned about the textbook issue. They're a fundamental tool for learning. I don't care if they're in digital or hardback form. ... You're wasting the teachers' time, you're wasting the parents' time and the students are suffering."

Scharfenberg came to the meeting looking for answers. He wanted to know why it takes so long for students to receive textbooks.

He wasn't alone in his inquiries. Some of the new school board members had questions of their own about how the textbook process works.

"Are textbooks ever late?" asked new board chair Lee Garrison.

Ed LaVigne, chief school financial officer, said they're late every year because the Alabama Legislature doesn't give school systems funding for textbooks until Oct. 1. The school year begins in August.

Garrison asked whether the system could use local funds to purchase textbooks before the school year starts and get the state to reimburse it later.

Elisabeth Davis, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, said the schools can't be reimbursed for spending local money on textbooks because the textbook money they receive from the state is earmarked only for textbooks.

Local money doesn't have restrictions on how it can be used, but if it's used for textbooks, the system won't be able to use the money for anything else. …