Funds designated for the purchase of textbooks for public schools in Texas cannot be spent on computer hardware such as laptop computers, according to a ruling this week by the state's attorney general.
The opinion was published on Tuesday by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in response to a request by Geraldine Miller, chair of the state's board of education. Miller had raised the issue after a bill was introduced in the Texas legislature that would have changed the word "textbook" in state law to "instructional material," and would have potentially allowed for the purchase of laptop computers to meet textbook requirements in schools.
Miller had expressed concern that the purchase of notebook computers in lieu of textbooks, if allowed, would greatly diminish the board's available funds for the purchase and distribution of educational materials.
In Abbott's opinion, he wrote that funds set aside for textbooks, "including electronic textbooks, must be used exclusively for the purchase of conveying information and may not be used for the purchase of hardware or other equipment."
According to the opinion, a textbook is defined as being "a book, a system of instructional materials, or a combination of book and supplementary instructional materials that conveys information to the student." That textbook could be in electronic form, such as software, CD-ROM, or online-services.
Laptop computers, however, fall under the category of "technological equipment" and do not meet the requirement of being "used exclusively for the purpose of conveying information," Abbott wrote.
Texas is one of the country's largest purchasers of textbooks for public education. Decisions made by the state on textbooks can often impact providers of educational materials throughout the country.