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Senate approves software as an alternative to textbooks

May 12, 2009|Patrick McGreevy

SACRAMENTO — California teenagers may be spared having to lug back-breaking loads of textbooks to school under a proposal that would make it easier for campuses to use electronic instructional material.

Allowing high schools greater freedom to spend state money on software to put textbooks on laptops and other electronic devices was backed by the Los Angeles Unified School District and approved Monday by the state Senate.

The Assembly will consider the proposal, drafted by state Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara). "Today's K-12 students represent the first generation to have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cameras, cellphones and all the other gadgets of the digital age," Alquist said after the 36-0 Senate vote.

"Today's students are no longer the students of blackboards and chalk."

California law limits how school districts can use state funds for instructional materials, requiring them to purchase enough textbooks for all students before spending money on electronic material.

As a result, some districts have purchased materials in both book form and software or have refrained from buying software, Alquist said.

SB 247 would allow districts to satisfy textbook requirements if they can provide each student with hardware and software that meet the same accessibility requirements that printed textbooks offer.

L.A. Unified has conducted a pilot program, as have schools in Lemon Grove and Fullerton, working with tech companies, including Apple, to provide students in select classrooms with laptops, which they can take home.

However, fewer than 1,000 students in L.A. Unified have been able to participate so far, officials said.

"This is really the wave of the future," said Virginia Strom-Martin, a lobbyist for L.A. Unified.

A separate measure in the state Assembly would require publishers to furnish instructional materials in an electronic format at less cost than the print version. That measure is AB 314 by Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Santa Monica).

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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