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Project Oklahoma: Some schools using textbooks older than their students

Project Oklahoma is an investigation into Oklahoma's educational system. The project is a joint venture by FOX 25 and KTUL.

Money for schools has been tight for years. The continued rounds of budget cuts have forced schools to make tough decisions, like not purchasing new textbooks for classrooms.

A textbook is a staple of education, but as Project Oklahoma found out it’s turned into a visual example of what education cuts are doing to the schools.

“Josh is here, Chaselyn is here,” said Rebecca Yeager to her Westville classroom.

The science and math teacher has taught in a couple different districts around Adair County, but she keeps coming back to Westville. It has her heart.

“I know in a rural community like Westville, they don’t see a lot of opportunity,” said Yeager.

Life in one of the poorest counties in Oklahoma isn’t easy. Money for even basic school materials is hard to come by.

“I don’t want to get all emotion, but we try to love them as best we can,” said Yeager.

There’s no question the teachers and staff at Westville care for the kids. They’ve been doing more with less for years now, but it’s starting to catch up. Superintendent Terry Heustis said the district can’t even afford to buy new textbooks for the kids.

“Your books are 12 years old, that’s where we are in that cycle. It’s just a broken process,” said Heustis.

In Westville,there aren’t enough for each student to have their own book.

“So this paper, please don’t write on it, we’re going to use it again next hour,” Yeager told her classroom.

The textbooks they do have don’t often meet the state testing standards.

“I ended up buying my own supplemental curriculum for math,” said Yeager.

In January, Yeager told her kids not to bother bringing their books to class.

“So all of these papers are my additional supplemental curriculum to my book,” said Yeager, picking up a large pile of papers and folders.

The last two years the state hasn’t been able to set aside money for new books. The statewide shortage has forced some students to use books older than they are. Each year the state can’t buy new textbooks puts students further behind.

In 2018, the Department of Education needs $60 million for new reading books. In 2019, they need $58 million for math books. Over the next five years, educators estimate they’ll need $250 million for books alone. However, time and history show us they often don’t get what they ask for.

“It’s not really a true reflection if you don’t have the resources,” said Yeager. “It’s like telling someone to bake a cake and only giving them flour.”

Folks in Westville said look all around Oklahoma and you’ll find that they aren't the exception but the standard.

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