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Let’s Talk About Textbooks

Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz wants to give all parents in public school a $1,000 tax credit to help public school parents cover the costs of textbooks and other education related expenses.

Election year pandering notwithstanding, I agree with Ritz from this perspective, no parent in a public school who is already paying taxes should have to pay for textbooks which are essential to part of an education.

However, the bigger issue should be why do textbooks cost so much in the first place?

A study by the American Enterprise Institute showed that over the past 20 years while televisions and cell phone have only dropped in price, TV’s (-96%) wireless service (-45%), the costs of textbooks have gone up an average of 207%.  By the way, college tuition was right behind it at 197%.

There are a number of reasons for this price gouging.  They include…

  • With taxpayers footing the bill, there’s no real incentive for publishers to try to sell things on the cheap nor schools to try to buy on the cheap, or at least be fiscally responsible.
  • There’s no money in used books for publishers so they crank out new editions as often as possible.
  • Publishers will include special access codes and CDs which make the books more scarce to find online.

I could go on but you get the point.

At the college level, we have all sorts of tricks to use to beat the publishers at their games of taking us to the cleaners.  High school and elementary school parents in Indiana unfortunately don’t have those options.

But at least this way, parents have a little more information they can use.  And knowing is half the battle.



  • malercous

    A tax credit doesn’t help those who don’t make enough to pay taxes. Not seeing how this would help the families who most need it.