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God Warns America  Index

President Bush, Iraq, Patriot Heroes & Troops: Our forefathers would applaud!

United Nations, Davis Recall Plot,  BlessedCause impacts in Politics & Whose groping Arnold Schwarzenegger?

Spirit of the antichrist alive and well in California schools

Stand up against Sex Ed Porn in public school

Archive News Coverage of Islam in Public Schools

Woe to ACLU and NEA Teachers Union

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The Sign of Jonah explained,  God's message is heard

Islam Induction in our Public School Textbooks
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Revelation 12

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How Clinton, ACLU wrote Religious Guidelines & U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton

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John Walker Lindh & California school proselytizing

Islam proselytized in Public School

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While the panel of professors and field experts examine content, the teachers' committee looks at every aspect of the books, from content to accessibility, ensuring that every state criterion is met.

But the state's criteria are so specific that there is little deliberation during these panels' deliberations, said Darrow.

"Everyone agreed," he said. "The real challenge was to agree on the wording of (our) reviews."

"When you only have four or five publishers controlling 75 percent of the market and you've built up the criteria so only they can compete, you're simply not going to get true competition," said Hill, the former state policy adviser. "It really does limit the opportunity to get the best outcome for students and schools."

The price tag

By this time next year, a third group of people, the state's appointed curriculum commission, will be reading the other two panels' reviews for that seventh-grade history textbook. Then legal and compliance teams will comb the book for errors and social content problems.

If the current price-capping legislation, authored by Joseph Canciamilla, D-Pittsburg, fails, no one will discuss price at any point during the deliberations. The price tags are already drafted, of course. Publishers must declare their list and package prices by June 15. But neither the curriculum commission nor the state board of education, which ultimately approves the adoptions, takes cost into consideration.

"Right now, we're not getting enough money to pay for new adoptions. Science books, math books are $60. We got $28," said Gary McHenry, superintendent for Mt. Diablo Unified.

Even if textbook funding increases for 2004-05, McHenry still worries about paying for the district's 10,000 new history textbooks. Its algebra books alone could cost $600,000.

And if Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signs the price-capping bill, which takes effect in 2007, its impact could be limited because it doesn't say how to set maximum prices. Driesler said it is modeled after a similar clause in the Texas Education Code, which sets a cap by averaging publishers' list prices.

"I do not believe that (our law) saves the state money," said Robert Leos, Texas' textbook administration director. "I do believe it is an effective tool for forecasting expenses."

Between the legal examination, the various content evaluations and public comment process, publishers will have invested hundreds of days in tweaking text, fixing photos of helmet-less bicyclists or children swimming without lifevests -- both no-nos in the Ed Code -- and lobbying commission members.

While politicians seethe over pricing, publishers and education analysts blame the state's arcane process for high prices. Guy Houston, R-Livermore, called AB 2455 "naive."

"Just saying we're going to cap the price doesn't face the reality of the market. Smaller publishers will be pushed out," he said. "We'd all like the price of a gallon of milk to be lower, but just saying it doesn't solve the problem."

Into the classroom

When the state board of education finally approves a program family, that launches the local adoption process. The publishing reps fan out to every district, bearing samples and charm but not many options.

"The state cuts down our choices, and your (publishing) rep is your rep," said Orinda curriculum director Lisa Bissell. "They just tell us what the price is. There's not a whole lot of shopping around."

Lafayette's MacIsaac compared it to buying a car -- if there were only one dealership in the business.

"It really narrows your ability to look at materials, though on the flip side of that, you know that someone else has reviewed those materials and you hope that they have identified materials that would be beneficial to teachers and students," said Christine Williams, assistant superintendent of educational services for San Ramon Unified. "But in some years there has only been one book to look at and that feels a little too narrow."

Beyond the standards, officials also try to meet specific needs in their community. They want community diversity to be reflected in the texts and they may prefer that skills are presented in one sequence rather than another. And they say top-quality books may simply be expensive.

"We want the best instructional materials for our students that we could possibly get," Williams said. "And if they cost more, they cost more."

It takes an additional six months to a year before local school boards actually choose a book. Legislation authored by Sen. Martha Escutia, D-Norwalk, could reverse the approval process by allowing districts to recommend textbooks to the state, though still following all the state criteria. The bill, SB 1380, is opposed by the textbook industry and supported by a range of education groups.

Finally, the history books arrive and children turn the crisp, inviting pages. They sign their names inside the front covers, carefully wrap the colorful, glossy books in brown paper-- the book cover of choice for generations of Californians -- and chuck them in their backpacks.

Another textbook cycle begins.

Staff writers Danielle Samaniego, Eric Louie, Melissa Moy and Liz Tascio contributed to this story. Reach Jackie Burrell at 925-977-8568 or jburrell@cctimes.com.