A bill proposing free online versions of public school textbooks would enable parents to review material their kids learn. The “Textbook Transparency Act,” introduced by State Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville), is making its way steadily through the General Assembly.
The bill would require that if any electronic versions of a textbook exist, then they must be uploaded to an electronic database open to the public. The database would be maintained by and accessible through every public university’s main campus library. The only limitations the bill would impose concern readers copying the textbook or being charged to view the textbook.
If adopted, the Tennessee State Board of Education and the Tennessee Higher Education Commission would have to create or sign off on a database for the textbooks. Further, textbooks can only be removed if they are no longer used by a school.
On Wednesday the House sponsor, State Representative Mark Cochran (R-Englewood), shared that this bill would allow taxpayers to review the books for themselves.
“It’s really just to ensure that all textbooks that are adopted in the state of Tennessee have more eyes on them. Currently, once that textbook is adopted, no one’s really clear on where to go see that material in full,” explained Cochran.
State Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge) commended lawmakers for getting the bill this far – he noted that this was an issue the legislature had been facing for several years. State Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) also applauded the bill, saying that he always supports transparency for constituents.
The estimated fiscal impact of the bill would cost, at minimum, $2,000 to start up and possibly $500 annually for maintenance.
The bill passed through the Education Instruction Committee in the House with bipartisan support on Wednesday, and is awaiting scheduling by the Calendar and Rules Committee.
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