INDIANAPOLIS -- For some parents of students in public schools, every dollar is hard to come by. A new proposal would help those parents pay for their child's schooling.
A bill introduced in Indiana's general assembly would require public schools to provide textbooks and other learning materials to students at no cost. As it stands now, Indiana is one of just eight states that does not require public schools to provide books to students at no charge.
House Bill 1169, authored by Rep. Scott Pelath (D-Michigan City) would create a "Curricular Materials Fund" to provide money to reimburse public schools for paying for students' textbooks.
At many schools, annual textbook fees start at around $100.
"Thankfully the school system allows me to be delayed, but it's still a bill that I have to pay that is difficult to pay," said Susan Garcia, parent.
"I wrote my check for $535 to the school corporation and I always get the bill before Christmas and I always say, this is not the month for me to pay this," said Jenny Robinson, parent.
The money in the fund would come from appropriations from the general assembly, donations, or other grants. It does not revert to the state general fund at the end of the year -- it would stay in the Curricular Materials Fund.
In 2014, former Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz requested the state pick up the cost for students' textbooks. She expected it would would cost about $109 million to cover the cost.
"If you don't need it, don't take advantage of it," one mother said in 2014. She was against the idea of the state picking up the tab for everyone. "[It should only be] for people that need it, I think it would be more helpful."
The Monroe County chapter of the Indiana Coalition for Public Education is spreading an online petition to try and get HB 1169 passed in the Indiana House. More than 5,000 people have signed it, as of Monday morning.
"Textbooks are not a frill," the petition states. "They are an essential aspect of the curriculum. It's time for Indiana to step up and fully fund public education."
"Not a lof of people realize that this is not normal and it's kind of questionable because you are required, you are mandated to pay these fees to attend a free public school," said Keri Miksza, Indiana Coalition for Public Education.
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