Districts Struggle To Purchase Materials For Common Core

For school districts attempting to meet the abundance of new education mandates set forth by the state, anticipated expenditures continue to rise.

It has been found that the funding received by districts implementing these mandates, such as Annual Professional Performance Review plans and the new Common Core Learning Standards curriculum, is being far outpaced by the costs required to do so.

In Chautauqua County, the full effect that Common Core implementation will have on school budgets remains to be seen. However, the consensus is that, much like their APPR plans, area districts will not have sufficient funding to implement the standards without redirecting their current resources.

“(Common Core implementation) is going to have an impact-we just don’t know how much yet,” said April Binkley, library media specialist for Falconer Central School. “It’s (already) starting to have an effect, and people are starting to look at what they’re going to do differently. And it’s definitely going to have an impact in terms of which novels are being taught, and that’s going to have some cost. Some of the things that are being recommended are things that are no longer in print, so they’re going to be reissuing a lot of those things.”

Jessie Joy, director of curriculum instruction and assessment for Jamestown Public Schools, said it is more important that teachers adapt the new curriculum into their current teaching plans rather than wait for currently unavailable materials.

“We’ve had to prioritize what resources we do have,” said Joy. “We do receive state aid each year that is expressly for the purchase of textbooks, and it’s a set amount based on student enrollment-roughly equal to $60 per student per year. That’s not sufficient in order for us to purchase an entire new set of curriculum resources for both ELA and math all at once. We also are responsible for purchasing and maintaining textbooks for other subjects as well so what we’ve had to do, and will have to do, is suspend replacement of textbooks for other subjects and reallocate the resources we do have for purchasing texts in ELA and math first.”

She added: “It’s really about the transition that we make and how we utilize the resources we have in the meantime. The funding is not sufficient to overhaul our textbook resources all at once, and, even if we had the funds, the availability of resources is still very limited.”

This course of action was echoed by Kaine Kelly, superintendent of Sherman Central School, who said that the district has taken to utilizing online modules rather than looking into textbook replacement.

“Easily 50 percent of our principal’s time is spent with (APPR and Common Core) implementation, whereas before it was in other avenues,” said Kelly. “And Sherman is fiscally not in a position to add staff, so we’re getting by with what we have. We’re kind of evaluating with our staff, looking at how to go about purchasing materials and what materials to purchase. (The New York State Education Department) has modules on its website that are sample units to be used around the Common Core, giving teachers training-and now we have to pay substitutes.”

He continued: “It’s a year-to-year analysis. We’re going to use modules and various texts to implement the Common Core, without going into a whole textbook series, and see how it works for us from there. Local districts are not capable of doing this implementation on our own, and we lean very heavily on our local BOCES for training to help us through that.”

In a New York Times article from last month, it was stated that New York City school districts can expect to spend a total of $56 million in the purchase of new textbooks and other materials in order to meet the rigorous academic standards of the Common Core. Michael Mulgrew, president of NYC’s teachers’ union, issued a statement expressing concern over the cost of these materials.

“(It is uncertain) how well (the new materials) will actually match the Common Core standards, and whether the new curricula and their accompanying materials will be ready for the start of the new school year,” he said.

Adopted by 45 states, the Common Core sets a national benchmark for what students should learn in English and math. While it does not detail all of the curriculums students should learn, it is intended to help them build skills for success.

From April 16-24, third- through eighth-grade students throughout the state will take Common Core-based standardized tests in English and math for the first time. These tests will be given at the high school level beginning next year.