Doubts grow over free school text book plan

Doubts are growing about the feasibility of government plans to provide free text books for secondary school pupils free, several newspapers report on Friday.

Currently parents are responsible for the book bills, which can mount up to €400 per child.
In particular, MPs are worried about the fact that schools will have to put their book-buying out to European tender because the contracts are worth more than €206,000.
Apart from the cost of the tender process, many schools fear that they will not be able to select which books they want, but will have to accept the lowest offer. Lawyer David Orobio de Castro, an expert on tendering, tells the Volkskrant the courts will ultimately decide if this is the case.
School book trading group Iddink tells the NRC that 83% of its customers do not want to put their book buying out to public tender. ‘If it costs so much money and time, then forget it,’ chairman Sjoerd Slagter told the paper.
Plans to introduce free books have now been delayed until 2009 because of the European tendering. Instead, parents will get €308 per child extra from the government.
‘This must not lead to a worse situation for schools,’ Socialist MP Jasper van Dijk told Friday’s Volkskrant. ‘We have to be pragmatic about this and look for other options.’
In December, the council of state said that free books would have little effect on family spending power because the poorest households already got help with their book bills.

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