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Department of Education hires experts to produce and maintain public domain textbooks - potentially saving billions in education per year

The textbook industry is a $30 billion a year industry.

If the department of education simply hired subject matter experts, over the course of a year, their combined efforts should easily be able to produce quality textbooks. They could also act as managing editors and receive contributions from educators all around the world as a means of updating and improving content quality.

The books would be free to use, download, copy, print, or even edit and modify as each state and school district sees fit. As just one idea of how it could work, They could use low cost tablets that are loaned to students. Another way might be to have the Dept of Education print them up and distribute them at cost to the schools. The possibilities are endless.

If they produced 100 of the most common textbooks used, with 3 subject matter experts per book each earning $100K a year, the cost to produce and maintain up to date, free text books would be only $30 million a year. If we include a pool of graphic artists, photographers, writers, editors and management, we are looking at maybe $40 million per year. Almost 1000 times less than buying commercially produced textbooks..

Any thoughts? Ideas for improvement? Potential pitfalls?


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    Jan 11 2013: As you have no bio or location ... this would really help ... I must assume that you could not be from the USA. Arne Duncan wants your suggestion and has expressed it often. What makes you think that putting the feds in charge of anything would reduce costs .... history has proven that to be totally false. As education is heavly populated by liberals and dominated by unions the texts would discount all other views ... Keynesian economics would be the only theory available and big government its main objective ... Revisionist views would become "fact" and indoctrination would incur. The last reason is that it would be Constitutionally illegal. The mission statement for the US Department of Education is to provide policy guidelines for education to the states.

    In the United States, state and local governments decide most education policy. The role of the federal government is restricted by the Tenth Amendment to that of guarding the right of its citizens to equal access to public institutions and equal opportunity within them.

    As is happening in our government .. a means of by passing law has occured. The Dept of Ed has a staff of 5,000 and a budget of 80 billion. It cannot "force" the states to "obey" the demands set forth by the feds ... so it states that if the states do not comply that federal funding will be withheld.

    Singapore has taught us that we should embrace "engaged learning" the basis being meaningful, relevant, and useful. We continue to believe that the correct answer is the goal ... true learning would be application of that knowledge. We have mandated, codified, and restricted teachers to the point that they are simply teaching the test.
    To envoke a national text and test system would, in my opinion, validate teaching the test for national pride .. but would do little in educating the students.

    I have thoughts on doing away with textbook publishers .. but that is another conversation. Out of space.

    • Jan 12 2013: "As you have no bio or location ... this would really help .."

      We aren't talking about me, we are talking about an idea. My bio, or who I am is irrelevant.

      This isn't significantly different from other 'open textbook' projects, other than it has a paid staff to produce the products. You are right that states don't have to use them, but they would be provided for free and can be modified like anything else in the public domain, which by any understanding of economics, is a powerful incentive.

      As for why I think it would reduce cost...I already outlined that in the question header. 40 million compared to 30 billion.. I don't think that is too hard to understand.

      The Department of Education is an obvious choice. I am well aware that tea baggers everywhere hate the Federal government, but so what? That isn't the topic of conversation. Besides, they hate the Dept. of education because they still want to teach creationism in school.

      "As is happening in our government .. a means of by passing law has occured....so it states that if the states do not comply that federal funding will be withheld."

      Congress has the power of the purse....get over it. States do not have to take the money...

      What alternative would you propose? You seem to be suggesting that we do nothing.
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        Jan 13 2013: Bio s and locations provide a basis to talk apples to apples. The idea that this will all be free as you indicate in para 3 is rather naive ... there is no free lunch as most adults realize. The only thing left to discuss is could the Feds print, sell, and distribute for less than the private company.

        Para 5, 6, and 8 are political garbage or assumptions ... Is there a conversation somewhere that Congress does not have the power of the purse???? Or are you making reference to the blackmale that the Dept of Ed uses in withholding funds to get their way which has nothing to do with Congress. I do not get over either Blackmale or violations of the Constitution. Again only a person from another country would endorse that.

        I do not .. as you suggest .. "that we do nothing" ... I do suggest that we do the right thing.

        I normally do not reply to conversations that do not have posted bios but thought I would give it a try .... I will not do it again ... That is my choice.
        • Jan 17 2013: "Bio s and locations provide a basis to talk apples to apples"

          Wrong. They have nothing to do with the topic. ANYONE could have come up with the idea, from anywhere and from all walks of life, and it would still be the IDEA that needs to be debated.. The only value a bio has in any debate of substance, is to morons who like to make personal attacks rather than debate the ideas.

          Given that you appear to be one of those people that hate the federal government in any capacity, I can honestly say, I don't really care what you think. You are unlikely to contribute anything to the discussion, other than to muddy the waters with mindless drivel over congressional authority that has long since been settled in the supreme court. You are obviously one of those people who claim to understand the constitution, but simply haven't read it in years. I don't need everyone to like my ideas - politics doesn't work that way anyway.
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        Jan 17 2013: No bio ... no comment
        • Jan 19 2013: Good. You clearly have nothing to contribute anyway.
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        Jan 19 2013: No bio ... no comment

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