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Texas educator: Forget books, let's buy computers

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Date: Thu, 18 Sep 1997

Texas educator: Forget books, let's buy computers

-- With the state facing a possible $1.8 billion bill over the next six years for school textbooks, the head of the Texas Board of Education says it might be cheaper and more innovative to buy the kids laptop computers and CD-ROMs.

"We're talking big numbers there, and the price of this technology.. is coming to where it approaches that level," said board Chairman Jack Christie. "Why wait for the rest of the nation?"

Christie said computer companies would likely be willing to give the state discounts and donated services for the chance to serve 410 million children. Once the investment is made, computer software could be easily and cheaply updated, he said.

"Why wait for six, seven, eight years to update history (textbooks)? They (students) need it today," he said. Christie's comments come as the board prepares to vote in November on funding for textbooks for the years 2000-2001. In that budget period, state budget officials say textbooks will cost the state $602 million in subjects such as English, U.S. history, science, health and mathematics. In the current two-year period, textbooks cost about $361 million.

Some officials were more cautious about jumping into the realm of high technology, questioning whether it's necessary to constantly be updating subject material.

"When I was in school, we never got past World War II. How much change do you make in a history textbook?" said Robert Junell, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Apple Computer officials said their laptops are already used in a number of Texas school districts. "Apple has always partnered with schools," said Ann Pittman, a regional saleswoman for Apple's educational division, SchoolVision Inc., "and SchoolVision has joined in those partnerships to create affordable ways for schools to procure technology."