He said his primary concern is finding an affordable alternative now that the board voted 4-3 to reject the Common Core textbooks.
Meanwhile, two of three board members who voted to approve the book purchase maintain their all-or-nothing approach and wish to approve the entire original proposal.
“The taxpayers gave us money to spend on textbooks and money is there,” board member David Banks said. “Textbooks have never been an issue before and it shouldn’t be now.”
The board was given three new options, along with the original recommendation, by Amy Krause, the district’s chief academic officer, at last Wednesday’s work session. It is expected to take up the matter again on Thursday.
Aside from the original proposal, which includes all K-12 teacher resources, student textbooks and online access, Krause provided three alternatives:
Option 2: Print resources for elementary school teachers, online resources for middle and high school teachers and student textbooks for high school only for a total of $3.7 million.
Option 3: The most controversial alternative includes teacher resources for all teachers and print resources and textbooks with all Common Core references and icons removed for middle and high school students for a total of $6.3 million. According to the proposal, adjustments to pricing are necessary because of the customized editing of “practically every page.”
Option 4: Teacher resources for K-12, middle and high school student print resources and textbooks printed as-is and workbooks for high school core courses and hard cover textbooks for advanced courses for a total of $4.2 million.
Both Scamihorn and board member Brad Wheeler said they wouldn’t be in favor of spending more to remove references to the standards, as proposed in Option 3.
“That’s not gonna happen,” Scamihorn said point-blank, adding that if there was a consensus by the board to remove the Common Core references and icons, he wouldn’t be in favor of spending money to do so.
“It’s the same book. It’s the same stuff,” Wheeler said. “If it’s going to cost more money to get the same thing and white out names, that’s kind of ridiculous.”
Scamihorn said he’s still considering the other alternatives, but is more inclined toward an entirely different option that would cost less than all of the other options and focus more on providing online resources. He noted that districts throughout the state, including Cherokee and Bartow counties, haven’t even bought any textbooks in the last few years and said it’s a matter of “changing expectations” for some in the school system.
Though district staff can make recommendations on textbook choices, a majority of the board can approve any combination of online and print materials.
Scamihorn said he feels state officials have not made a definitive decision to continue support of the Standards and said his hesitation in purchasing the materials is rooted in the possibility that the Legislature could vote in the next legislative session to remove Georgia from participation in Common Core and leave the school district saddled with more than $7 million in out-of-compliance textbooks.
“My primary issue is that (I want) the state to make a definitive decision — the governor, the state superintendent or the state board — and our community’s dilemma goes away,” Scamihorn said.
Scamihorn said his opinion is not based on the political controversy surrounding Common Core — a debate neither he nor board member Brad Wheeler said they want to take a side on.
Wheeler said framing the issue as a debate on the merits of Common Core isn’t a realistic representation of his argument. Opponents of Common Core, for instance, argue that the standards are not rigorous enough and that the whole program represents a “top down” approach in which the federal government replaces states and localities as the driver of what ends up being taught in the classroom. The Obama administration has tied its “Race to the Top” federal education funds to adherence to Common Core, which has added fuel to the controversy.
“I’m not pro or con with this issue, I think we need to be wise stewards of our tax money to get the materials we need for our students,” Wheeler said. “Math is math, that’s how I see it. I’m hoping we can find something to get to the kids that will work.”
Board member David Morgan, who said during the work session he wants to approve the original proposal, maintained that stance when contacted Friday.
“That’s my main priority, the initial recommendation,” Morgan said.
Scamihorn said he’s convinced the board is heading in the right direction toward making a compromise and will make a final decision on what combination of materials to purchase — and that materials will be purchased.
That was an issue Wheeler wanted to clarify, too.
“It’s not that we’re gonna cut these teachers and students off and give them nothing,” Wheeler said. “As a board, I hope we try to provide them with the best we can afford.”