U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan recommends digitization - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Federal recommendation for electronic textbook conversion

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Amarillo, TX - Recent remarks from United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan renewed a federal push to digitize textbooks in American schools, which some say constitutes federal overreach.

On Tuesday (October 2), Duncan recommended that all textbooks in public schools in the nation be converted to an electronic format in the next few years to keep pace with other emerging world economies, like South Korea, which has a current goal of being fully digital by the year 2015 (see associated link)

However, Texas is one of five states that does not adhere to the federal "Common Core" Standards (see associated link) from Washington.

Governor Rick Perry has historically opposed federal oversight of public schools on grounds it is an intrusion into state sovereignty.  In that vein, Governor Perry has repeatedly rejected federal standards, and consequently, the federal dollars attached to them.

During the last Texas legislative session, funding for public schools in the state was cut by about $4 billion dollars, with an additional $1.4 billion in cuts to discretionary grants.

Duncan has been an outspoken proponent of education reform during his tenure in the Obama administration.

In a 2010 article in Foreign Affairs (see associated link), Duncan wrote:

"There is a paradox at the heart of the United States' efforts to bolster international competitiveness:  to succeed in today's knowledge economy, the United States will have to become both more economically competitive and more collaborative.  For too long, policymakers, lawmakers, and voters have treated competitiveness as a zero-sum game, in which another nation's gain is necessarily the United States' loss.  In fact, enhancing educational achievement and economic viability -- at home and abroad -- is more a win-win game, one with enormous benefits for the world and for the United States."

District 86 Texas Representative John Smithee says that although he can see the benefits of technology in the classroom, conformity to federal regulations is the bigger issue, saying, "I don't think the big push should come from Washington or even Austin.  I think the decision needs to be made more on the local basis about how to change over to the electronic versions, and when to change, and to what extent to change."

The next Texas legislative session is scheduled for Tuesday, January 8, 2013.