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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, September 12, 2006

State should audit textbook spending

A school without enough textbooks is unacceptable. Every public school must have adequate resources to educate our students, and textbooks should be at the top of the list.

But after years of shortages, there's still a lack of textbooks in every subject for every student in our public schools.

Still, it's too easy to say, "Let's just spend more money on textbooks." The Legislature allotted $2.5 million in expenditures for math books in 2004, and another $2 million for science books this year.

It's still not enough. Some schools that have yet to align curriculum to state standards didn't even get new textbooks under the latest cash infusion. Those schools are left with their existing budgets and forced to prioritize between buying a new textbook or spending the money on something else.

It's a shame that textbooks are vulnerable to the budget ax. To be sure, the publishing industry deserves some blame for doing little to bring down the high cost per book.

But it's also galling that with a budget in excess of $2 billion, the largest share of our state budget, our public schools can't allocate money effectively on textbooks.

Before suggesting the Legislature come up with more money, it's time for a state audit to find out what happens to money that should be going to textbooks. What other things take priority?

An audit could help us better understand why there is not enough for textbooks.

That information would help us come up with a better roadmap so we don't find ourselves coming up short when it comes to textbooks.

The state auditor's office says such an audit would be doable in the span of a few months. Surely our kids are worth that investment.