Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Publishers in a Bind with Textbook Money Diverted

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Publishers in a Bind with Textbook Money Diverted

Article excerpt

OKLAHOMA CITY - In a good year, nearly all of John Thompson's clients order textbooks from his warehouse near the state Capitol. As schools plan for next year, he said, fewer than half want to buy anything.

The slowdown is another marker in a multi-year trend of depressed sales, said Thompson, owner of the Thompson School Book Depository. He does business with most of the state's school districts and about 40 publishers.

Local school boards have been allowed since 2010 to divert state- appropriated textbook money to other things, like support and maintenance of the district while using older editions of textbooks in the classroom. This year, however, lawmakers ended the $33 million textbook line item and pumped cash into the funding formula instead.

The decision gives districts more flexibility on how to spend the money, and it lets the Legislature avoid bigger spending cuts to direct school appropriations. But Thompson said that as the textbook market shrinks, the industry will react.

"As long as there's not some sort of dedicated funding, then publishers aren't going to make the effort to create Oklahoma- specific materials," Thompson said. "So what we'll end up with is national editions which may or may not meet Oklahoma standards."

He also said publishers are reluctant to dedicate sales representatives and sample materials to a state that isn't buying. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister had the same warning in a press release this week.

"As a result of the funds being cut this year, we are seeing a number of textbook publishers pulling out of Oklahoma," Hofmeister wrote.

Department spokeswoman Deana Silk clarified Thursday that textbook publishers usually make their pitch to districts, but some companies are foregoing their Oklahoma pitch meetings because the districts don't have money set aside for the product.

In 2015, according to the state Department of Education, public schools spent $22. …

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