The budget passed in the Indiana General Assembly’s 2023 session makes “curricular materials” available to K-12 students “at no cost” to students, but leaves school districts questioning how those materials will be paid for.

Indiana was one of the few remaining states that used a rental system for curricular materials.

Madison-Grant Assistant Superintendent Steve Vore explained the way Madison-Grant has handled textbook rentals. Previously, the school corporation would buy the books and materials and then over the next five years, would rent them to students for 20 percent of the cost. By the end of the five years, the books would be paid for.

Curricular materials does not just refer to textbooks. It also includes supplies, Chromebooks and classes that have student fees attached to them, Madison-Grant Superintendent Dr. Scott Deetz explained at the Madison-Grant school board meeting on Monday night.

“Frankly, you know, there are certain things that have not been answered as of right now,” said Marion Community Schools (MCS) Superintendent Keith Burke. “The amount of money that they’re giving us would probably… cover our textbooks without our technology. …We will probably find a way to where we’re absorbing the costs, but we need more answers from the state right now.”

Burke said school districts across the state are trying to come up with solutions for how to cover expensive curricular materials such as technology and that a suggestion he has heard from other school districts is for students to bring their own devices.

“I think that (Marion) would find a way, but it puts some people in some really, really bad situations and some tough spots,” Burke said.

Until schools get more information about how much money they will receive from the curricular materials fund to cover these costs, they are in what Vore described in the school board meeting as “a holding pattern.”

“We don’t know, exactly what number the state is going to provide per student,” Vore told the Chronicle-Tribune. If we had that number, then any future thoughts and direction and strategic moves could be established. …I’m not sure where they’re going to land. But everybody is on pins and needles waiting for that decision to be made, I’m sure.”

Both Madison-Grant and MCS hope to have more information over the summer, but the holding pattern Vore described makes it more difficult for schools to order the materials they would normally order over the summer for the upcoming school year.

“In a lot of ways, I think that the state really tried to do a good thing,” Burke said. “They just underfunded it.”
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