Schools Agree To Pay For Textbooks At Least One More Year

Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow reads to students during Read Across America week in March 2016. File photo

Johnston County School officials say they will pay for student textbooks in 2018 but may have to turn to Johnston County Commissioners for additional funding if they are expected to cover the costs in 2019.

Approximately 1,500 students are projected to enroll in Career and College Promise (CCP) classes at Johnston Community College for the 2018-19 school term, up from 1,307 this school year.  The program allows high school students to also take college level courses and graduate with a high school diploma and two year college degree at the same time.

Johnston County Schools announced in October they might not be able to afford the cost of college-level textbooks next year, which is projected to run $681,280. Some of those textbooks cost as much as $400 each.

An estimated 42 percent of the 1,500 CCP students will qualify for free and reduced meals.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Eddie Price told the Johnston County School Board last week, they would continue funding for the next school year.

“The impact to our community may not be immediately visible, but we feel this partnership will reap benefits to the economic development of our county in the future,” Dr. Price said. “As we continue to grow the participation in CCP and thus the cost, we will need to consider the funding options utilized in other districts.”

Prior to announcing the school system would fund the book costs next year, the school system had considered several options. Among them, students paying for all their books and fees; students paying $100 per semester to take Career and College Promise classes to help offset the book costs; or the school system paying only for books for the 42% of students who qualify for free meals and the remaining 58% paying for their textbooks.

“In order to continue funding students at this rate,” Dr. Price said, “this potentially may become an item that is requested from the County Commissioners.”

School districts vary on who pays for textbooks for the advanced classes.  Schools in Duplin, Edgecombe, Nash and Wilson Counties pay for the books for everyone.  In Wake and Sampson County, students cover the full costs. While in Wayne County, the district only pays for books for those who qualify for free and reduced meals.

In an email statement to WTSB News in October, Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow said, “Our goal is to remove barriers that could prohibit our students from engaging fully in school.”

If students were forced to pay for some or all of their book costs, it was expected to decrease enrollment in the CCP classes.

WTSB News reached out to Johnston County Manager Rick Hester for a comment as to whether commissioners would be willing to pick up the costs for those textbooks after 2018. Hester said he was not aware of the school board’s comments but did issue a statement to us.

“It is difficult for me to speculate on what may or may not happen during the upcoming fiscal year 2018-19 budget season,” Hester said in an email. “During budget season, the Board of Commissioners approves an annual lump sum amount for Johnston County Schools. The Board of Education then prioritizes how to use those local dollars. The only times I can recall the Board of Commissioners designating specific uses for some of their local appropriations to Johnston County Public Schools has been for teacher supplement increases.”