INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 7, 2015) - Indiana Senate Democrats are looking to save the average Hoosier family more than $100 per year.
The average Indiana family pays $118 per year to use state textbooks. Democrats want to eliminate that fee, giving all students free textbooks.
Sounds good, except you've got to multiply $118 by nearly half a million students and that's a whole lot of money Republican Senators say just isn't quite there.
"It's embarrassing that Indiana is one of eight states that charge textbook fees," said Democratic State Senator Earline Rogers.
Rogers proposed senate bill 341 which looks to eliminate the state's textbook fee. The average cost of paying for books here in the Hoosier state is $118 per household. That's $130 million spread across nearly 500,000 students, that the state coffers would have to cover.
It's a tough sell for Democrats in a budget with almost every dollar controlled by Republicans.
"In conversations with the Governor and his people and our colleagues, sometimes we are able to get them to see our side and to agree with us and absolutely to get people who are affected involved in it. Get our teachers, our parents, and students activated throughout the state and have a concerted action," said Rogers.
"We're going to have to prioritize where we put our money," said State Senator Luke Kenley.
Kenley, a Republican, Chairs the State Appropriations Committee. A bleak budget forecast has left state funds tight. The state already pays for low income families to have textbooks and Kenley said the money to pay for every student, isn't there.
"So we're paying for textbooks for the people who don't have the ability to do it and what we're asking other people to do is in exchange for about $12,000 a year that we spend on public education for each child, we're asking the parent to pick up a share for maybe $200," he said.
One opinion among lawmakers is that the state should go the route of many universities to drive down costs: using free online textbooks, eliminating the cost altogether.
It's a consideration during a budget session where education issues have taken center stage.