Indiana superintendent Ritz requests money to cover textbook costs

INDIANAPOLIS - Democratic Schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz says she would like to see the state cover the costs of textbook rentals.

Ritz included the request in her proposed schools budget she submitted to the State Budget Agency on Thursday. The Indiana Department of Education expects it would cost $109 million to cover textbooks, $70 million more than is currently allocated.

Ritz is also asking for a 3 percent increase in education spending for grades K-12. Education funding accounts for the majority of spending each year -- well above $6 billion -- but most "passes through" the state to local school districts.

Indiana is one of eight states to charge families for textbook costs, and costs have increased in most districts in recent years due to property tax caps in 2008 and the recession. Textbook fees for grades K-12 often start around $100 per student and can range upward from there.

"By funding these at the state level, we can guarantee that all districts have equitable resources for texts while also giving parents a much needed financial break," Ritz said in a statement.

Gov. Mike Pence, who typically favors tax cuts and decreased spending, is set to deliver a budget proposal to the General Assembly in January.

Republican leaders say they strived to protect education from the deep cuts some other agencies faced during the recession, though Democrats point out schools lost $300 million at the time.

The Louisville Courier-Journal reported last month that some textbook fees may be on the decline as more schools move to using new technology, such as computer tablets.

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