Texas Legislators Introduce Ed Tech Choice Bill
Legislators in the state of Texas have introduced a bill that would give local school districts choice over the technologies and instructional materials they purchase. The legislation is receiving support from industry and education advocates, including the Texas Association of School Administrators and the Texas Computer Education Association.
HB 4294, introduced in March and referred to the Public Education committee last week, aims to allow school districts to use their state textbook fund allotments to purchase textbooks and a "wider range of innovative, up-to-date, state-approved instructional materials and the technological tools to get those materials into the classroom."
"HB 4294 is critical for Texas schools and our students. It will allow local school districts the ability to choose cutting-edge, relevant curricula that will best meet the needs of our students," said Johnny Veselka, executive director of the Texas Association of School Administrators, in a statement released Tuesday.
"We shouldn't tie the hands of our school districts by forcing them to spend money on books that are simply sitting in warehouses collecting dust," said Kari Rhame, president of the Texas Computer Educators Association. "This legislation recognizes that the school rooms of today are far different than they were even a decade or two ago."
Currently, districts are required to use their allotments only to purchase hard-copy textbooks and complementary electronic materials. HB 4294 would allow districts to choose which textbooks and formats they will use in their schools (based on the Texas State Board of Education approved list); it would establish a statewide list of approved instructional materials and supporting technology equipment; and it would establish a minimum requirement for districts and charter schools to purchase "a classroom set of SBOE-approved textbooks for all curriculum."
"It's time we recognize that our classrooms should be teaching kids in the 21st century, and our curriculum and materials ought to reflect the realities of today's workforce," said Luke Bellsnyder, executive director of the Texas Association of Manufacturers, another supporter of the legislation. "Workforce readiness is crucial to our state's long-term economic prosperity."
"With five kids of my own, I'm keenly aware of the importance of preparing Texas students for a challenging and rapidly evolving economy," said Rep. Dan Branch (R-Dallas), one of the authors of the legislation, in a statement released this week. "We owe it to our students to give school districts more flexibility to utilize interactive, digital content. A traditional textbook is a vehicle for content delivery, but for many students, that vehicle is quickly becoming a horse and buggy."
"Requiring school districts to use their state textbook allotment solely for textbooks is counterproductive," said Rep. Rob Eissler (R-The Woodlands), another of the legislation's authors. "That worked when I was in school. But that archaic approach to teaching fails to recognize the exciting potential of the 21st century classroom. What is more, it fails our kids."