Saturday, March 27, 2010
Stupid Is As Stupid Does
It turns out that the Texas State Board of Education has not only been shooting the state's schoolchildren in the foot but the taxpayers as well.
In a couple of stories (here and here) the Texas Tribune has been documenting why the influence of the state board over curriculum, both inside and outside the state, may be waning. It has to do with technological advances that allow textbook publishers to tailor their materials to Texas' increasingly idiosyncratic (not to mention ideological) standards and a recent end run around the board by the state legislature, whereby electronic textbooks and materials, approved only by the Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency (who does not answer to the board but who is, unfortunately, appointed by the governor) can now be used. It's interesting stuff but this is what caught my eye.
The push for digital content came in part because of legislators' belief that publishers should deliver such materials for much cheaper – a contention that remains in dispute. Textbook makers have asserted that the vast majority of their cost goes into development, not printing.As always, there is a price to be paid for being stupid.
[Texas State Representative Scott] Hochberg believes he discovered the smoking gun that disproves that claim.
He was the one grilling Pearson publishing executive [Steve] Dowling during a hearing of the education subcommittee on appropriations earlier this year. Deep in the testimony, he pressed, in the manner of a prosecutor, on the question of why publishers charged Texas schools the same price for a digital version of their textbooks when it obviously saved bundles on printing, storage and delivery costs.
A clearly uncomfortable Dowling acknowledged the cost savings — and then confirmed that the company gives price breaks on electronic versions in the majority of states where districts, not the state, controlled the purchases, "open territory" in industry parlance.
Wait a minute …
One stunned member asked: "Is the e-book package cheaper" in other states?
"Yes … I believe it is," replied Dowling — who had minutes before contended that almost all the publisher's costs were wrapped up in content creation, not printing and delivery.
"Then why isn't it here?" an incredulous Hochberg asked.
"Well, because they're created for Texas to meet your specific requirements," Dowling said.
The Texas Board of Education - supporting the students of every other State by dumbing down their own!
Has a nice ring to it!