Audit: N.C. education department doesn't track textbook inventory

Posted July 16, 2010

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— The state Department of Public Instruction mismanages its textbook inventory, so its difficult to determine whether state money is being misspent, according to an audit released Friday.

North Carolina typically spends close to $90 million a year on textbooks and instructional supplies. With budget cuts, that spending dropped to about $35 million last year and to less than $3 million in the upcoming school year.

Audit investigators found that DPI distributes the money to local school districts but doesn't keep track of inventory. Because of the lax oversight, officials don't know how many books have been lost, damaged or stolen and they can't budget properly for new purchases, state auditors said.

State officials also haven't established guidelines for how many years a book can be used before it needs to be replaced, they said.

"Nothing's going on to make sure as a whole this textbook money is being managed properly," State Auditor Beth Wood said. "You have no idea how it's being used – if it's waste, if the textbooks are sitting in a warehouse somewhere not being used and another county somewhere needs the textbooks.

Textbooks in warehouse State needs more oversight of textbooks, auditor says

"There's just nothing going on," Wood said.

Drew Fairchild, DPI's manager of textbook operations, said local school districts have autonomy over their supply budgets and what needs to be replaced.

"We don't micro-manage their money. We don't tell them what to buy, and we don't tell them how many to buy," Fairchild said. "It would be a tremendous waste of effort to go back out and look at all these school inventories, especially on used books."

Still, Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said in her written response to the audit that DPI would create guidelines for textbook usage and would conduct an inventory check every two to three years.

Wood said more state agencies need to set up better accounting procedures so lawmakers can make truly informed decisions on budget cuts.


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  • ncwiseguy Jul 16, 2010

    well lots of people in the IT industry commented about how easy it is to do this or that relative to inventorying textbooks. as a user who has been abused, i have my doubts. these are the guys who drone on and on about, but it s the latest and greatest. they got some sort of high tech solution before they even figure out what the problem is.

    sorry fellows. there is a place for technology in todays world. but you d better understand the complete problem before you start saying............"all you gotta do is....."

  • wondrfl1 Jul 16, 2010

    Homework should be more a responsibility thing not a requirement. Kids with parents that help them (or do it for them) do not need the homework assignments and the on es that need the practice either have no one to help at home or do not do it. Textbooks are a great resource for practice, but are not a necessity. I believe there is a need to keep track of the books and there should be a better accountability.

  • NJtarheel Jul 16, 2010

    Dear Blah,
    Yeah, yeah, I know,,,,just another yank blowing steam. We moved to Johnston County based on a report from Perhaps your county is where we should have moved. BTW, someone should "demean" the system here. You really have no idea what you are talking about. Fortunately or unfortunately, NC is the 4th system our kids have been in and even they complain how inadequate it is. This comes from a Freshman and a 6th grader!!! Shame on you! Hopefully, if enough of us yanks move down here, the system will be forced to correct itself. You should really hold your school system to a higher standard. We do!!! Finally, let's get over the 150 year old war! We are all Americans looking for the best for our kids.

  • NoFreakinWay Jul 16, 2010

    Just add the bill to the tab the Governor gets to mis-manage with the 2011-12 budget. They aren't screaming yet, but come then the teachers will all be jobless and I bet they scream then!

  • BlahBlahBlahBlahBlah Jul 16, 2010

    NJtarheel, don't come down from up North and demean our system....Maybe your kid does not have homework but mine has 7 hours a night.....

  • teachnow Jul 16, 2010

    Someone mentioned barcoding the text books.Most book companies do that as part of the price. It is not that difficult to get this into a system.Time consuming maybe, but not difficult as the company provides a cd or e-mail with with a download with the barcode to be loaded into the system.Then you are sent a sheet with a barcode that matches it along with the name of the book on said barcode.All you have to do is scan the book out to the student by their student number.When I was in the classroom, each of my books had a number and the student was aware that THAT number was the one that had to be turned in at the end of the semester and failure to do so resulted in paying for the book. As a classroom teacher, we were responsible for keeping up with our books. Someone else mentioned copies on cd and online. This is a great tool if offered, but not all children have access to conputers to be able to do this. The school where I teach (K-4), only about 20% have access to a computer at home.

  • NJtarheel Jul 16, 2010

    Unfortunately, the kids are given time during class to complete their homework which is another thing that sticks in my craw... I always thought that homework was for home, I guess I'm confused. This certainly does not help the parent who values and is very active assisting their kids at home as my wife and I do. While my oldest gets straight "A's" (doesn't feel challenged in NC schools) my youngest struggles. The excuse often given by her is that she gets time in school to complete her assignments. As a new yankee resident of the state, it boggles my mind how there are terrific colleges with an unsatisfactory public school system. This is the only complaint I have of this beautiful state....

  • meh2 Jul 16, 2010

    There are books in NC schools? Dang...

  • luckn4u2 Jul 16, 2010

    What else is knew, anytime you have a democrat in charge of any kind of major state office,sooner or later corruption will follow.

  • yruatwit Jul 16, 2010

    "JAT" makes an excellent point. Since 95% of the people employed by the State are poorly educated, unmotivated, just coast-along-until-retirement, don't make waves, that's just the way we do it, legislative puppet, you get what you pay for, stifle creativity and vision, that's not my job employees, the State has no choice but to hire an exorbitantly high priced consulting firm to develop a tracking method.