During the Citizens to be Heard portion of the March 25, 2014 Board of Trustees meeting, one speaker raised the issue of legality in requiring students to purchase their textbooks through a single source. Here is the text of his speech:
My name is Mariano Aguilar, Jr., and I’m here as a concerned taxpayer; I am a constituent of Joe Alderete; I valued Mr. Alderete as a mentor when we started the Tejano Democrats in the mid 90s, and I value him as a trustee, as I do all the trustees.
I am here to support these valiant students as they raise serious and legitimate concerns about the plan for changing the way we select textbooks. I am also here to advise the board that its proposed actions would violate state and federal law. I urge Mr. Beitzel, as chair of the legal affairs subcommittee, and Ms. Bustamante, as chair of the student success subcommittee, to take the lead in investigating Texas HB 1096, which states that students are under no obligation to purchase their materials from the college affiliated bookstore.
I also urge you to read the amended Higher Education Opportunity Act of 1965 as it pertains to textbooks in section 112, subsection (f): Additional information.—“An institution disclosing the information required by subsection (d) (1) is encouraged to disseminate to students information regarding—
(1) available institutional program for renting textbooks or for purchasing used textbooks;
(2) available institutional guaranteed textbook buy-back programs;
(3) available institutional alternative content delivery programs; or
(4) other available institutional cost-saving strategies.
Please consult these laws as you reconsider the textbook policy. The district must follow state and federal laws.
It must also listen to its students. When they approach us about issues such as textbooks, we must remember our stated values of “students first”, “respect for all”, being “community engaged” and practicing “collaboration”. When they tell us they cannot afford readers, laptops, netbooks, internet, and ebooks, we must remember that according to our own findings, 24% of our students are economically disadvantaged (2/11/14 student success subcommittee report ). These findings are supported by the U.S. census report for 2008-2012 that shows that 20.1% of the people of the city of San Antonio are below the poverty level.
Economic, legal, and personal arguments to reconsider the textbook policy abound, and our value of being “data informed” should compel us to act on this evidence.
To our knowledge, this issue has yet to be addressed by District administration. If students are required to pay for their textbooks at the same time they pay for tuition, and the the delivery of those texts are from a sole source, it would appear that the legality of the Board’s Instructional Materials policy requires further exploration.