TRENTON – State Senator Ronald L. Rice said today that the state should look into the lack of textbooks for urban students, and said that he would be willing to introduce legislation if necessary to require schools to purchase enough textbooks so that each student can get their own.
“I’ve been raising this issue for a number of years, because I hear from irate parents who want to know why their children have not been issued textbooks,” said Rice (D-Essex.) “It doesn’t make sense on one hand to expect our kids to do well in school, and on the other not give them the tools they need to achieve classroom success. In my opinion, a ‘thorough and efficient’ education, as guaranteed by our State Constitution, should come with textbooks that students can bring home with them to do homework and study for exams.”
According to an Office of Legislative Services review commissioned by Rice, the law governing textbooks in New Jersey is vague on whether or not students are required to have individual textbooks. The law stipulates that “the board of education of a public school district shall purchase textbooks for the students in grade levels for which they have responsibility,” but this passage could be technically construed to mean that the board must provide books for the classroom, but not necessarily for individual students. In some cases, students in middle school and high school only use the text book during the classroom period, and leave the textbook behind for the next class when the bell rings.
“This may be a generational thing, but I remember being assigned a textbook growing up, and you were responsible for bringing that textbook to and from class,” said Rice, the co-chair of the Joint Legislative Committee on the Public Schools. “You were often assigned homework or a reading assignment out of the textbook, and having access to these books at home was necessary to study for the next big test. This is a tradition we should try to uphold for current students.”
Rice said that some schools have moved towards providing eBooks for students, but he noted that such a practice is problematic, because students in poorer districts cannot always afford eBook readers. He also said that such technology can fail, and when it does, the student would still be responsible for missed assignments even though the equipment failure was no fault of his or her own.
Rice added that existing law does require that nonpublic school students receive individual textbooks if they request them. He said not requiring the same for public school students creates a double standard.
“All students deserve to have the resources they need to succeed academically made available to them,” said Rice. “I look forward to the State Department of Education reviewing its policies regarding individual textbooks for all students, and if necessary, I will sponsor legislation mandating schools to provide individual textbooks to students. We cannot expect our kids to achieve if we’re short-changing them on something as simple and time-honored as having access to a textbook.”
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