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Publishers Claim Competitor Gained Unfair Edge

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A dozen publishing companies have filed protests against the textbook recommendations made by an advisory committee to the Louisiana state school board. The companies charge that a competitor gained unfair advantage in the bid for $20 million in state textbook money by sponsoring an out-of-town trip for one committee member.

The state board last week decided to give the publishers a second shot at convincing the state adoption committee that their textbooks are aligned with Louisiana standards.

In taking that action, the state board postponed until next month its vote on a list of mathematics and computer-science textbooks that local districts can buy using state dollars.

Some publishers who did not gain the adoption committee's endorsement pleaded their case before an appeals council earlier this month. The council advised the state board to expand the list after determining that the selection process was faulty.

Lawyers for New York City-based Macmillan/McGraw-Hill and other companies argued that Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley publishers broke rules prohibiting them from communicating with members of the textbook-adoption committee.

More Rejects

The Menlo Park, Calif.-based school publishing division sponsored a trip to an education symposium in San Diego last fall for committee member Sabrina Smith. Ms. Smith did not learn of her appointment to the 16-member panel until a week after she returned from the trip.

State education officials said that more textbooks than usual were omitted from the approved list this school year because they were more closely scrutinized to ensure that they matched the state's new curriculum standards in core subjects.

The symposium, which brought together dozens of educators from around the country to discuss leadership issues, is a common tool for publishers, according to Paul L. McFall, a vice president for sales for Addison Wesley.

"The facts are that all major companies do these sorts of things all the time," Mr. McFall said. "The whole purpose of the symposium is to help us better develop materials that meet the needs of states."

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