Bills to end the reign of expensive, proprietary, out-of-date textbooks
Few projects have provided a sense of quiet personal meaning and value as efforts to help thrust open the doors of next generation educational access for students in K-12 and higher education through the use of Open Educational Resources.
I have introduced two major bills this year, HB 2336 and HB 2337, to bring open educational resources to K-12 and to create a bold policy by which the ‘default’ of access to educational materials in higher education is ‘open’ rather than today’s ‘closed.’ I believe both represent important steps forward not as exclusive answers but as representatives of our state’s willingness to embrace this initiative.
The public has an innate sense of fairness and today’s textbooks have crossed the line of economic and academic market failure on virtually every account. A $8 billion industry fueled primarily by tax dollars and student funds calls out for major systems reform on every level.
The state of Washington spends at least $125 million a biennium on textbooks in K-12 alone, while college students pay hundreds of millions more. Still, textbooks are just the most obvious challenge.
The Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges has shown that open educational resources are possible logistically and operationally. These bills strive to move forward with the natural next step. While there are numerous legitimate technical and operational concerns among higher education officials about academic interests, and negotiations continue in earnest to find a win-win, the larger value proposition is difficult to deny.
I value the knowledgable view of academic leaders in our state and I am striving to learn from them how we can build a better model using open educational resources together. We have a long way to go together.
As California and other states embrace this same cause as well, my hope is that Washington can continue our march of progress.
This journey, as well as that of my California colleague Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg’s efforts, show that state governments will lead where larger markets have unquestionably failed. President Obama has recently elevated the issue of the high cost of textbooks, but state governments continue to be the primary customer and we must be so much more intelligent about our purchases and expectations. For too long state and local governments have failed the public by accepting an old, broken system but we can begin anew.
Educational materials created and funded by tax dollars should be openly licensed and available to the public who paid the bill. And everyone else.
Your partner in service,