Schools missing $1 million in textbooks from last year in Palm Beach county.

Essay by pinkness15High School, 11th gradeA+, April 2002

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Schools missing $1 million in textbooks from last year

Maybe Palm Beach County's students love reading more than anyone realized. In the last school year, they failed to return nearly $1 million worth of the school district's textbooks.

A state audit released this week criticizes the school district for its collection procedures in gathering lost or stolen textbooks that totaled $964,758 during the 2000-2001 school year.

That's about 19,000 books, at an average cost of $50 each.

Summer reading?

School officials don't think so. But there's little they can do to get the books back. Some principals threaten to withhold report cards, but if the parents ask for the grades the school has to hand them over -- book or no book.

Other schools promise: no returned textbook, no diploma. But that's not really legal either, and kids have probably figured out it's just a bluff.

New procedures will be put in place to keep tabs on books better, said Meezie Pierce, who tracks textbooks and instruction material for the district's academic programs department.

But what the district really needs is more legal muscle, she said.

The only punishment a school can inflict is restricting extracurricular activities and asking the student to do community service to pay off the book.

"We don't have many options," Pierce said. "There's just no teeth in the law."

The district also can ask only for 75 percent of the cost of a lost, damaged or stolen book, although officials are trying to get out of that restriction.

In March, the Charter School District Advisory Committee approved a plan with seven waiver requests, including one that allows the district to charge full price when a book is not returned.

If the plan is approved by the school board and state, Palm Beach...