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Free textbooks not likely at NH and Lanesville

Parents of children enrolled at South Harrison Community School Corp. got a surprise last week when the corporation’s board of education approved free textbooks even as some book bills were on their way to homes. Due to different spending priorities, it’s not likely anyone will be picking up the tab for other Harrison County parents.
At Lanesville, Supt. Phil Partenheimer said his corporation is limited on its capital projects fund and most funding requests to the commissioners are for one-time expenditures.
“Basically, what boat money has done for us is help keep our technology abreast with other schools, and it has also helped us pay for capital projects issues so our building doesn’t wear out,” Partenheimer said.
Recently, Lanesville has funded carpet, roof repairs and two new boilers.
Partenheimer said the school has to concern itself with providing an adequate learning environment first, and if the school were in a position to provide free textbooks, he said he was reluctant to support a program that might not be in effect from one year to the next.
“We don’t want to get in the position where the people who took part in it the year before have to come up with the money themselves,” he said.
South Harrison’s free textbook program is contingent on the availability of riverboat revenue. Supt. Neyland Clark said implementing the program will cost $500,000 the first year and $200,000 to $250,000 in following years.
“Once people get used to getting them free, you are going to have an awfully hard time telling them they are not going to get them for free,” said Eddie Pitman, assistant superintendent at North Harrison, echoing Partenheimer’s stance. “Same with lowering property taxes. One day maybe they’ll have to go back up, and the school board members and superintendent will get blame.”
North Harrison now has no plans for a free textbook program, but, Pitman points out, that could change in the course of a school board meeting.
At North Harrison, books commonly reach prices of $70 to $100. The books are typically readopted every six or seven years, but occasionally the same book will be used for a second cycle. Books can be sold back to the company, but, Pitman said, it is similar to selling back college textbooks in that schools receive only a small fraction of the initial cost.
Free textbooks may not have the same longevity as rentals. “When you don’t have any vested interest in them … you don’t take as good of care,” Pitman said.
Despite their concerns, both Partenheimer and Pitman said South Harrison’s free textbook program was a positive use of riverboat revenue.