Archives for category: Librarians

The voters of Jamestown Township in Michigan voted to defund their library because it contained books with a LGBT theme. The library needed to raise $245,000 to keep its doors open for another year. Many donations arrived but the biggest surprise was a $50,000 check from Nora Robert, a fabulously successful romance novelist. She sent a check for $50,000, which put the library over the top in their goal. The library has more books by Roberts than books about gay themes. She has written more than 225 books and sold more than 500 million books.

It could make a great final chapter of a book: A doomed library is saved by the small checks of book lovers, and one huge donation from an internationally known author whose novels are among the most popular on the library’s shelves.

Romance novelist Nora Roberts donated $50,000 Sunday to help keep the doors open at a Michigan library that was defunded in early August in a spat over LGBTQ-themed books.

The famous author’s donation pushed the cumulative total raised by two GoFundMe campaigns over $245,000, the amount the Patmos Library was expected to lose in 2023 because of the loss of taxpayer funding in Jamestown Township, in Ottawa County. The outpouring of donations followed Bridge Michigan’s account of the taxpayer revolt.

In a comment left Sunday on the GoFundMe page which she contributed to, Roberts wrote that she would have donated more, but “50k is the limit GoFundMe allows for donations. If you’re short of your goal, please contact me. I’ll make up the rest.”

Donations made so far by more than 4,000 people from as far away as Australia should be enough to pay utilities and staff salaries at least into 2024..

On Aug. 2, an operating millage to support the township library was defeated 62 percent to 37 percent. That millage — a tax on property owners — provides 84 percent of the Patmos Library’s annual budget. Without the $245,000 that millage provides annually, the library was expected to have to close by the fall of 2023.

A “vote no” campaign was organized by community members upset by LGBTQ-themed graphic novels in the library. One, “Gender Queer: A Memoir,” is the story of the author’s coming of age as nonbinary, and includes illustrations of sex acts. Several other books community members protested against, including “Kiss Number 8” and “Spinning,” are stories of teens in same-sex relationships, but do not include illustrations of sex acts.

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I wrote recently about Amanda Jones, the librarian in Louisiana who is fighting back against censorship and harassment in court.

One of our regular readers said she belongs on the honor roll of this blog. He’s right.

Amanda Jones joins the honor roll for her courage and integrity in fighting censorship!

Her GoFundMe page is raising money for her legal defense. Consider helping her fight for free thought!

In Louisiana, a middle school librarian has said. “Enough is enough.” She is standing up and fighting against the vigilantes who have targeted school libraries.

Amanda Jones has filed a lawsuit against two men who have harassed her and other librarians.

Amanda Jones, a librarian at a middle school in Denham Springs, Louisiana, filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday, arguing that Facebook pages run by Michael Lunsford and Ryan Thames falsely labeled her a pedophile who wants to teach 11-year-olds about anal sex.

Jones, the president of the Louisiana Association of School Librarians, was alarmed and outraged by the verbal attacks, which came after she spoke against censorship at a Livingston Parish Library Board of Control meeting. She said she’s suing the two men because she’s exhausted with the insults hurled at educators and librarians over LGBTQ materials.

“I’ve had enough for everybody,” Jones said in an interview. “Nobody stands up to these people. They just say what they want and there are no repercussions and they ruin people’s reputations and there’s no consequences.”

Lunsford did not respond to requests for comment. Thames declined to comment.

Nationwide, school districts have been bombarded by conservative activists and parents over the past year demanding that books with sexual references or that discuss racial conflict, often by authors of color or those who are LGBTQ, be purged from campuses. Those demands have slowly moved toward public libraries in recent months.

Thank you, Amanda Jones!

Ruth Ben-Ghiat writes a post on her blog about threats to democracy. One of this is described in this post: the threats to libraries and librarians by extremists who want to ban books.

This essay is dedicated to librarians and library staff across America, and to a family member who worked as a library clerk in an elementary school for many years.

“It felt like a knife in my heart,” said Audrey Wilson-Youngblood, a Texas library services coordinator, of the flood of accusations from parents that she and other library staff in the Keller Independent School District harmed students by having books on LGBTQ themes in their collections.

Across the country, librarians in school and municipal libraries feel that knife being turned. Activist parents, sometimes working in conjunction with GOP politicians or right-wing groups such as Moms for Liberty, are waging an authoritarian-style assault on libraries and librarians.

When illiberal forces are on the march, the education system and any public institution that encourages independent thinking and pluralism become targets. In Texas and elsewhere, the spread of censorship, and harassment meant to silence library workers –including by labeling them as pedophiles — models the authoritarian culture the right is trying to install in America school by school and town by town.

It’s not surprising that libraries and librarians trigger the enemies of our democracy. Public libraries are places where community members of all backgrounds, political beliefs, and economic situations gather, and where elderly and lonely people can find a sense of companionship. This is why social scientists single out libraries as antidotes to the conditions that harm civic life and ultimately degrade democracy: political polarization, disinformation, economic inequality, and isolation.

School and public libraries also have long provided refuge to people of all ages with difficult home situations, and librarians can become trusted mentors and guides.

My weekly visits as a child to my own town library set me on a path of learning. The library also became a personal anchor for me when I went through a difficult period as a teenager, to the point where I took a job there as a messenger clerk, as did a close friend (who is now a member of the Lucid community).

Shelving and straightening the books, and seeing how they were treated with such care, instilled a lifelong respect for the craft of writing and a commitment to intellectual freedom that sustain me today. As my friend notes, the library was “a safe space to think and dream.”

Of course, thinking and dreaming are activities that run counter to authoritarianism: “Believe, Obey, and Fight” was the Fascist slogan. Books become threatening objects, as centuries of bookburnings by repressive political and religious entities attest.

In the US, myriad state laws and book bans seek to remove the history of White racism, slavery, and Fascist genocides from view, along with writings about LGBTQ identities and experiences. In the Keller, Texas, school system alone, as of March almost three dozen books had been sent for review by a district-formed book committee on the grounds that they are “pornographic” or will create “emotional distress.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, an expert in authoritarian double-speak, calls his version of such censorship “curriculum transparency.” Yet there is nothing transparent about the process by which books are removed. As Carolyn Foote, a retired Texas librarian and co-founder of the advocacy group FReadom Fighters notes, these aggressions are about “breaking that contract of trust” between librarians and the public and degrading professional ethics.

A display protesting book bans and restrictions at a local library. Charles Hickley/CC BY 2.0

The goal is not just to create a hostile work environment for library staff, but also to pressure administrators to submit to corrupt tactics such as banning books on spurious grounds and accepting slanderous speech used against their colleagues.

For right-wing parents and politicians aren’t just going after books. They are also personally attacking library employees as “groomers” who encourage inappropriate behaviors and relationships with children.

Associating LGBTQ individuals and their allies with pedophilia is an established strategy among the global right, including in Viktor Orban’s Hungary. And Vladimir Putin uses fake sex-crime charges to imprison researchers who are writing about things he wants buried.

Ideological fanaticism spurs attempts to dig into librarians’ private lives and harass them so they will resign. In Virginia Beach, GOP state representative Tim Anderson filed a FOIA Act request in May 2022 to learn the identities of librarians at schools that had materials some parents saw as sexually explicit.

It also lies behind attempts to criminalizelibrarians. In Clinton Township, NJ, the police department received a request for criminal charges to be made against librarians whose institutions had books with “obscene” content. And some states are challenging laws that shield teachers, researchers and librarians from prosecution. An Oklahoma law removed exemptions for teachers and librarians “from prosecution for willful violations of state law prohibiting indecent exposure to obscene material or child pornography.”

Unsurprisingly, many librarians have left their jobs. Some have resigned, others have been fired for refusing to remove books from their collections. Wilson-Youngblood, a 19-year veteran of the Keller school district, resigned due to the stress of working in a hostile environment. In small towns such as Vinton, Iowa, the library itself has had to close for lack of staffing.

Vinton’s fate may portend the future, since the number of groups targeted for censorship is bound to expand. In Vinton, right-wing activists not only objected to the presence of LGBTQ staff and LGBTQ-themed books, but displays of books by Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden. For radicalized Republicans, Democrats are not just people with different opinions, but political enemies whose ideas should be banned.

Luckily, the digitization of books makes it hard for total bans on content for children to stick. The Brooklyn Public Library’s Books UnBannedprogram offers a free library card to people aged 13 to 21 across the U.S. so they can check out books digitally.

Yet libraries and librarians urgently need our support. Contacting your town or school administration to express solidarity and approval with current policies is one way you can push back. Another is to step up as a volunteer or even run for office on a town or school board that has oversight on library issues.

What Amanda Litman, executive director and co-founder of Run For Something, said about school boards in our interview is also true of libraries. They play “a foundational role in determining the kinds of citizens that kids ultimately become.” Libraries, and librarians, are essential to a healthy democratic society.

The Wall Street Journal, owned by billionaire RupertMurdoch (who also owns Fox News), runs a steady diet of anti-public school editorials. Sometimes they bash public schools. Sometimes they praise charter schools and vouchers. Sometimes they do all of this in the same editorial. While an opinion piece that expresses a dissenting opinion occasionally gets published, it’s fair to say that the WSJ does not like public schools. In my last book, Slaying Goliath, I praised retired Austin librarian Sara Stevenson for responding to every WSJ vilification of public schools.

Peter Greene responded to the opinion piece by law professor Philip Hamburger, who claimed that public schools are not “constitutional” because they suppress parents’ freedom of speech, that is, their ability to ensure that their children hear, read, and learn only what their parents want them to learn.

Greene begins:

Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal (Fox News’ upscale sibling) published an op-ed from Philip Hamburger, a Columbia law professor and head of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a Koch-funded pro bono firm that takes cases primarily to defend against the “administrative state.” It’s a hit job on public education with some pretty bold arguments, some of which are pretty insulting. But he sure says a lot of the quiet part out loud, and that makes this worth a look. Let me walk you through this. (Warning–it’s a little rambly, and you can skip to the last section if you want to get the basic layout)

Hamburger signals where he’s headed with the very first paragraph: The public school system weighs on parents. It burdens them not simply with poor teaching and discipline, but with political bias, hostility toward religion, and now even sexual and racial indoctrination. Schools often seek openly to shape the very identity of children. What can parents do about it?

Hamburger offers no particular evidence for any of this catalog of arguable points. Various surveys repeatedly show that the majority of parents approve of their child’s public school. The rest is a litany of conservative complaints with no particular evidence, but Hamburger needs the premise to power the rest of his argument.

So here comes Hamburger’s bold assertion:

Education is mostly speech, and parents have a constitutional right to choose the speech with which their children will be educated. They therefore cannot constitutionally be compelled, or even pressured, to make their children a captive audience for government indoctrination. Conservative talking points about public education routinely assert and assume that public education is a service provided to parents, rather than to the students or society at large. It’s case I’ve never seen them successfully make. At the same time, society’s stake in educated members is clear and the entire rationale behind having non-parent taxpayers help pay the cost of public education. In any other instance where the taxpayers subsidize a private individual’s purchase of goods or service (e.g. food stamps, housing), some conservatives say the social safety net is a Bad Thing, so it’s uncharacteristic for them to champion public education as, basically, a welfare program for parents when they want to dramatically reduce all other such programs to bathtub-drowning size (spoiler alert: they’d like to do that with public education, too).

But Hamburger has taken another step here, arguing that speech to children somehow belongs to their parents. It’s a bold notion–do parents somehow have a First Amendment right to control every sound that enters their children’s ears? Where are the children’s rights in this? Or does Hamburger’s argument (as some angry Twitter respondents claim) reduce children to chattel?

Hamburger follows his assertion with some arguments that don’t help. He argues that public education has always attempted to “homogenize and mold the identity of children,” which is a huge claim and, like much of his argument, assumes that schools somehow have the power to overwrite or erase everything that parents have inculcated at home. But then, for the whole argument currently raging, it’s necessary to paint public schools as huge threat in order to justify taking dramatic major action against them….

But “education is speech” is not the really bold part of his argument. That really bold part is where he goes on to say “therefor, parents should have total control over it.” I have so many questions. Should parents have total control over all speech directed at or in the vicinity of their children, including books, and so would I be violating a parent’s First Amendment rights if I gave their child an book for Christmas? And where are the child’s rights in this? Would this mean that a parent is allowed to lock their child in the basement in order to protect that parent’s First Amendment right to control what the child is exposed to?

Hamburger’s argument has implications that he doesn’t get into in his rush to get to “do away with them and give everyone vouchers.” The biggest perhaps is that he has made an argument that non-parent taxpayers should not have to subsidize an education system. I’m betting he’s not unaware of that.

Please open the link and read the rest of the article.

John Merrow has some good suggestions in this essay about the month of May and how to use it wisely and well:

May has been an educational ‘dead zone’ for years. Because of our national obsession with standardized test scores, teachers–particularly in low income areas–spend class time showing students how to guess at answers, giving practice tests, and even teaching children how to fill in bubbles for the standardized, multiple choice ‘bubble’ tests that await them. These activities come with a huge opportunity cost for students, because they are of no educational benefit whatsoever and probably set their learning back; for teachers, they are an insult to their profession. And school districts spend billions of dollars buying, administering, and grading the bubble tests required by their states and the federal government.

When I was reporting I occasionally heard people complaining–in song–about “the morbid, miserable month of May,” riffing off an old Stephen Foster tune, “The Merry, Merry Month of May.” As I recall, the expression surfaced in 2003 or 2004, which is when the unintended consequences of the 2001 federal “No Child Left Behind” law became apparent. Because NCLB penalized schools that didn’t achieve what it called ‘adequate yearly progress’ on standardized tests, many districts eliminated art, music, drama, journalism, and even recess in order to concentrate on ‘the basics.’

That’s when the month of May became a ‘morbid’ dead zone, educationally speaking.

I don’t remember where I first heard the expression. It might have been in the suburban North Carolina elementary school that held ‘pep rallies’ in advance of the upcoming state exams, or in Richmond, Virginia, where a veteran middle school teacher told me “Teaching and learning are done; now it’s all test prep.” Or perhaps it was the Chicago high school teacher who confessed that he vomited in his wastebasket when he saw his students’ scores, or the custodian in a Success Academy charter school in New York City who said he rinsed out classroom trash cans every night because students regularly threw up in them during testing. Another possibility is the Washington, DC, parent whose young son couldn’t sleep because his teacher said she’d get fired if they didn’t do well on the tests.

The good news is that May 2020 does not have to be ‘morbid,’ ‘miserable,’ or ‘malignant.’ Because schools are closed and state standardized testing has been cancelled, May is a blank slate–and an opportunity for us to make it ‘magical’ and ‘memorable.’

News reports indicate that many parents are unhappy in the role of ‘teacher at home.’ (They are also coming to realize just how hard it is to be an effective teacher!) Teachers are frustrated because nothing in their training prepared them for teaching remotely. And so, because the March-April experiment in ‘remote learning’ hasn’t been a rousing success and because May is a tabula rasa, let’s embrace ‘out of the box’ thinking. Stop thinking like educators whose jobs depend on high test scores. Think differently!

(An earlier blog post about librarians, swimming instructors, highway engineers, and gardeners is here.)

Imagine for a moment that you don’t have a captive audience (because right now you don’t). IE, think like a librarian. Public libraries are different from schools in one important way: they do not have required attendance. But even though no one is forced to attend the library, library usage continues to climb. To survive and prosper, librarians have had to identify their audiences and find ways to draw them into their buildings and electronic networks. For the most part, they’ve succeeded without pandering. That’s what’s called for in education at this moment.

In the past few months, there have been a number of articles about “the science of reading,” all touting the importance of phonics. I don’t know that there is a “science of mathematics” or a “science of history,” or a science of teaching any other subject. Although I have a long record in support of teaching phonics, I have long recognized that many children read without the help of phonics, many learn by being read to by their parents, many start reading because the grown ups in their lives make it important to them.

Nancy Bailey points out a central problem with the “science of reading.” The disappearance of libraries and librarians. The ed-tech industry has jumped on the “science of reading” bandwagon because it believes that a computer can teach sounds and symbols as well as a human teacher, maybe better, through repetitive exercises.

Nancy, as usual, says “hold on” and throws some common sense and experience into the discussion.

She writes:

The loss of libraries and qualified librarians in the poorest schools has reached a critical mass. Yet those who promote a Science of Reading (SoR), often supporting online reading programs, never mention the loss of school libraries or qualified librarians.

Ignoring the importance of school libraries and certified librarians delegitimizes any SoR. Children need books, reading material, and real librarians in public schools. If reading instruction doesn’t lead to reading and learning from books, what’s the point? Why should children care about decoding words if there’s no school library where they can browse and choose reading material that matters?

How do school districts prioritize reading when they shutter the only access some students have to books? Who will assist students when qualified school librarians are dismissed?

Across the country, as noted below, public school districts have chaotically closed school libraries and fired librarians. They have done this despite the fact that school libraries and qualified librarians are proven positive factors in raising reading scores in children.

When recent NAEP scores appeared low, no one questioned how the loss of school libraries and librarians in America’s poorest schools could have accounted for lower scores. Instead, they obsessed over rising scores in Mississippi, likely due to holding third graders back.

The SoR fans criticize teachers, university education schools, and reading programs. Most are not classroom teachers and they appear to be taking children down a path towards all-tech reading programs.

Unlike the abundance of research showing the benefit of libraries and librarians, there’s no proven research that online reading programs will help children read better, especially if they have a reading disability.

The Research

We’ve known for years, that schools with quality school libraries and school librarians have students who obtain better test scores. Numerous research studies support the importance of libraries and librarians….

A Few of the Many Places that Have Lost School Libraries and Librarians:

New York City: A 2015 Education Week report, “Number of Libraries Dwindles in N.Y.C. Schools” notes that the number of N.Y.C. school libraries plummeted from nearly 1,500 in 2005 to fewer than 700 in 2014. The biggest drops happened in the three years before this time. Michael Bloomberg was mayor. Libraries were severely understaffed.

Philadelphia: This city has seen a drastic reduction of school libraries. The situation is dire. The Philadelphia Enquirer 2020 report, “You Should Be Outraged by the State of Philly Public School Libraries,” shows that, like other school districts, Philadelphia has had to resort to raising funds through donations to save its school libraries. Many schools have no library.

Michigan: Michigan has a known literacy crisis, but policymakers don’t put two-and-two together. Between 2000 and 2016, Michigan saw a 73% decline in school librarians. In 2019, they began retaining third graders with reading difficulties threatening children to “learn or else,” a reform with research stacked against it. Schools turned libraries into media centers and makerspaces. None of this is working out well.

California: California is one of the worst states for a lack of school libraries and qualified librarians. (Ahlfeld). In 2013-14, 4,273 California schools completed a survey representing 43 percent of schools. Of those responding to the survey, 84 percent have a place designated as the library, although staffing, collections, and programs range from exemplary to substandard. Sixteen percent of the schools didn’t have a library. Librarians were mostly found in high schools. Few schools in California have a certified school librarian. Some schools only open the library one day a week. Many elementary schools don’t have library services.

Oakland: In Oakland they’ve lost libraries, or they exist but they have old, outdated books. Signs on the wall tell students they are not allowed to check out books, and 30% of the original 80 school libraries have closed. Fourteen of the 18 high school libraries are gone. Sometimes the PTA provides volunteers for students to check out books.

Virginia: Some states permit schools to staff school libraries with volunteers, a common way to replace certified librarians. Teachers might help students check out books, or they have books for students to check out in their classrooms. Virginia avoided school library chaos in 2018 when the Virginia Association of School Librarians and the Virginia Library Association lobbied the state senate’s education committee helping to narrowly defeat a bill that would have removed regulations for qualified librarians at the middle and high school level. The Virginia House Education Committee defeated Senate Bill 261 in a 12-10 vote.

Chicago: In 2013, then Mayor Rahm Emanuel had the press take a picture of him in a school library discussing a funding increase to the school. The librarian had just lost their job! At that time it was reported that Chicago had 200 schools without a library, or the libraries were staffed by volunteers. The situation is still dire The recent teachers strike brought necessary change, but librarians worry they weren’t on the receiving end. About 80% of the 514 district-run schools are still without a librarian. There are only 108 full-time working librarians in the district, down from 454 librarians in the 2012–2013 school year, the year of the last Chicago teachers strike. But the recent strike did bring needed recognition to loss of school librarians and school libraries.

Arizona: Like so many places, Arizona has children who face poverty and don’t have access to reading material and literacy opportunities. But with only 140 certified school librarians, 57 book titles available for 100 students, and an average library budget of $960, Arizona school libraries are treading water.

New Jersey: In 2012, officials in New Jersey pondered whether librarians were necessary to help students when all students had to do was look up information online. But librarians are still critical to student success in elementary, middle, and high schools. In 2016, they reported a 20% drop in the number of school library media specialists or teacher-librarians in the state since 2007-2008. The New Jersey Library Association began a campaign Unlock Student Potential to address this serious problem. If you are concerned about the state of school libraries and librarians, this provides reports about the problems facing New Jersey.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools: In 2015, The Charlotte Observer published “Are School Librarians Going Way of the Milkman?” by Ann Doss Helms over concern about the loss of librarians and media specialists. School administrators used the excuse that teachers could offer books in their classrooms and get students library cards to the public library. This weakens the school structure, and paves the way to school privatization.

Denver: As more students entered the Denver school system, in 2019, they saw a 60% drop in their school librarians despite a previous 2012 study showing that Schools that either maintained or gained an endorsed librarian between 2005 and 2011 tended to have more students scoring advanced in reading in 2011 and to have increased their performance more than schools that either lost their librarians or never had one. How could they ignore what worked?

Florida: In 2015, The Florida Times-Union reported “Media specialists (librarians) almost endangered species in Duval schools.”Librarians are called media specialists there, but 110 media specialists had dropped to 70, leaving only 68 librarians in elementary schools, one at a high school, and one left at a middle school. In 2018, the number of librarians lost included 73 in Duval County, 206 in Dade County, 78 positions in Pasco County, and 47 librarians lost in Polk County (Sparks & Harwin).

Houston: The loss of school librarians began around 2008-2009 school year and got so bad many put bumper stickers that said “Houston We Have a Librarian Problem.” Houston started with 168 librarians. By 2013, it had dropped to 97 serving 282 K-12 schools. In 2019, the Houston Chronicle told about children coming home without books to read in their backpacks. Their 320 student school didn’t have a well-stocked library or full-time librarian.

Ohio: In 2015, it was reported that Ohio had lost more than 700 librarian positions over a decade. In that same year, the School Library Journal posted this report, “OH Department of Education Will Vote to Purge School Librarian Requirement.”

It appears that an emphasis on decoding, without addressing the loss of school libraries and qualified librarians, is intentionally incomplete for a reason. We know the importance of a school library and qualified librarians to a well-functioning school. Blaming teachers and their education schools for poor student reading scores, while ignoring this loss, indicates that forces are at work to end public education and replace teachers with screens. The SoR focus looks to be about this, and should be seen for it’s real agenda.

Nancy then offers a list of sources to prove her claim that libraries in schools are crucial for cultivating a love of reading. Access to books matters.

There is a difference between reading and literacy. Reading can be low-level or it can be a tool for gaining knowledge and knowing how to absorb it.

Open her post and read it.

She makes her case.

Day 2 of CTU strike will bring educators, allies to City Hall at 1:30 pm

Some movement at bargaining table Thursday, but no agreement on special ed needs, classroom overcrowding, salary floor for low-wage teaching assistants, staffing shortages.

CHICAGO—Educators and frontline staff will hit the picket lines for a second day today, as rank and file union members attempt to bargain a fair contract for 25,000 CTU teachers, clinicians, teaching assistants and support staff. While some progress was made at the bargaining table Thursday, the union and CPS ramain far apart on efforts to reign in exploding class sizes and find a path to remedying dire shortages of school nurses, social workers, special education teachers and other critical staff.

Late this afternoon, CPS refused to discuss a proposal on special education needs with the expert special education teachers and clinicians at the table who had crafted the proposal, because not every CTU officer was present. The CTU’s 40+ member rank and file bargaining team must sign off on any tentative agreement to be sent to members for approval.

Today’s schedule: Thursday, Oct. 17

 

  • 1:30 p.m.: Mass rally and march, City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St. with CTU rank and file, grassroots community groups, CTU officers, elected officials, allies.

Fast facts:

  • The State’s new equity-based school funding formula is sending a billion-plus additional dollars each year to CPS to reduce sizes of chronically overcrowded classes, support students in poverty and increase services to special education students and English language learners.
  • CPS passed the largest budget in its history this year: $7.7 billion. Yet CPS cut the amount of dollars it is spending in school communities this year.
  • Juarez High School in Pilsen, which enrolls over 1,300 overwhelmingly low-income Latinx students, saw its school budget cut this year by $840,000, costing the school nine teaching and staff positions.
  • CPS cut the budgets of more than 200 CPS schools by at least $100,000, and cut the budgets of more than 40 schools by more than half a million dollars for this school year.
  • CTU educators are fighting for better wages, smaller class sizes, adequate staffing, and educational justice for students and their families. They want the additional state revenue CPS receives to increase equity to go to school communities and student needs.
  • Almost half of CPS’ students are Latinx. Yet the district has acute shortages of ELL teachers—teachers for English language learners—and is severely short of bilingual social workers. Bilingual education services are chronically short of both educators and resources—a key issue at the bargaining table.
  • CPS is desperately short of school nurses, social workers, librarians, special education teachers, ELL teachers and more. CPS has staffing ratios three to five times higher than those recommended by national professional organizations and best practices. Fewer than 115 school nurses serve over 500 schools. Most schools have a nurse only one day a week.
  • One out of four schools has a librarian—and that number falls to barely one in ten for Black-majority schools. A decade ago, most schools had a librarian.
  • CPS is desperately short of social workers and special education teachers, even as CPS is under the oversight of a state monitor for shortchanging its diverse learners.
  • This year, more than 1,300 CPS classes are overcrowded under CPS’ own high class caps, up from more than a thousand overcrowded classrooms last year.
  • Almost 25% of elementary students attend overcrowded classes, with some kindergarten classes topping 40 students. Roughly 35% of high school students are enrolled in overcrowded classes; at schools like Simeon, virtually every core class is overcrowded, with math, social studies and world language classes topping 39 students.
  • The CTU’s school clerks and teaching assistants earn wages as low as $28,000/year—so low the children of two-thirds qualify for free and reduced lunch under federal poverty guidelines. Over 1,100 cannot afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment at prevailing rent rates in ANY zip code in the city. In year 5 of the mayor’s proposed contract, most of those workers would still be earning poverty wages. And in the last ten years, NO CTU member’s wages have kept pace with the inflation rate.
  • Candidate Lightfoot ran on a platform calling for equity and educational justice—including a nurse, a social worker and a librarian in every school—all proposals her negotiating team has rejected at the table. She also ran in support of an elected, representative school board—but moved to stall that legislation in the Illinois Senate after she was elected.
  • CPS has said it has budgeted to improve staffing shortages, but refuses to put those commitments in writing in an enforceable contract. The union wants those promises in writing, in an enforceable contract—the only way we have to hold CPS and the 5th floor to their promises.

Measure EE went down to defeat in Los Angeles yesterday. It was an effort to raise taxes mostly on commercial real estate to raise $500 million a year for the schools—to reduce class sizes, hire librarians, nurses, social workers, and psychologists and to expand classes in art and music. An election this important should appear during a general election, when most people vote.

 

For immediate release

CONTACT: Anna Bakalis
UTLA Communications Director
(213) 305-9654 (c)
(213) 368-6247 (o)
Abakalis@UTLA.net<mailto:Abakalis@UTLA.net>

To watch the live 1:30 PM press conference, click here<https://www.facebook.com/UTLAnow/videos/2390124311212283/>.

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl on Measure EE

We are proud of the work we poured into the Measure EE campaign. Our members participated in precinct walks, community events, and phone banks, talking to voters across the city. We know the community fundamentally trusts educators and supports the demands we are making for our schools, with UTLA’s strike in January being the historic case in point.

We faced a scorched-earth opposition, led by the LA Chamber of Commerce and aided by the Howard Jarvis Association and key Trump allies like Geoffrey Palmer. They had one purpose: to defend corporate profits at the expense of the students of our city.

The No on EE forces created lies about how the tax would work and fanned the flames of economic insecurity. They attacked not just LAUSD but the civic institution of public education and the educators who serve our students. They drove a destructive individualistic message that encouraged voters not to think about the needs of our students or the broader city.

Measure EE was just the beginning of the fight for funding sparked by our strike. It’s simply unsustainable for the richest state in the nation to rank 44th out of 50 in per-pupil funding. We are resolved to keep organizing for measures like Schools and Communities First on the November 2020 ballot, which would close commercial property tax loopholes and restore $11 billion for schools and community services.

There were ground-breaking elements to the Measure EE campaign that make us stronger for the work ahead. The City of LA is talking about the chronic underfunding of public schools in a way it never has. We partnered with community organizations focused on increasing voter participation in working-class communities and communities of color. In a district with 85% low-income students and 90% students of color, this is both righteous and necessary. We built a broad community/labor/elected coalition around addressing school funding that has not existed before in LA. That coalition, which includes some unlikely partners, has decidedly landed on the side of progressive taxation — taxation of business and corporations — as the pathway to improved school funding.

The agenda to starve our public schools will not win as long as we continue to build our movement.

Today is hard — but educators face and overcome obstacles every day. There is no other option. Like we do every day, we will continue to fight for our students.

 

I am often asked what billionaires should do with their money if they stopped investing in privatization.

Here is a small project for billionaires in California.

Los Angeles may close its elementary school libraries. 

Can’t afford them.

Where are you, Reed Hastings? Eli Broad? Bill Bloomfield? Arthur Rock? Mark Zuckerberg?

You give millions to charters and TFA, and what good have you done?

Do something real.

Be the Andrew Carnegie of LA.

Support libraries for elementary schools.

No, it won’t transform everything. But it will change lives.

Steve Lopez wrote in the LA Times:

Here we go again, tumbling down the shaft and into a bizarro world in which school libraries lock out students who need them most.

L.A. Unified elementary school libraries are on the chopping block once again, and library aides, many of whom could lose their jobs, are screaming for justice.

Some L.A. Unified board members, meanwhile, have made passionate pleas to keep the doors open.

“If you’re not reading by grade level by third grade, you’re going to struggle for the rest of your life,” said board member Scott Schmerelson, who has introduced a resolution calling for the district to come up with the necessary funding.

But just a few months after the L.A. Unified teachers’ strike drew strong public support for better pay and more resources for the struggling district, budget woes are forcing miserable choices that will hit students hard.

“An elementary school library is one of the more magical places in a child’s life,” said Meredith Kadlec, a second-grade parent who has been writing letters in the campaign to ward off cuts. “Imagination is born from books, and what about the kids who don’t get that enrichment at home? I feel like we’re going the wrong way in America when libraries are at risk.”

They’ve been at risk for years now in L.A. Unified. Many years ago, every school had a fully funded librarian. But as budget problems became more severe, teacher-librarians gave way to library aides, who then got laid off by the hundreds before being rehired. In the recent past, some libraries have been locked up despite the district having spent millions on new books. Typically, elementary school libraries are open only every other week as it is, and aides split their time between two schools

The strike settlement earlier this year resulted in teacher raises and promises of eventual reduced class size, nurses on every campus, and a commitment to have a teacher-librarian on every middle and high school campus.

But elementary schools got no commitment on library aides. In recent years, those positions — which used to be directly funded by the district — became optional expenses made at the discretion of principals. But those principals have to make gut-wrenching decisions with limited discretionary funds at their disposal. And the needs, in a district in which 80% of the roughly 600,000 students live in poverty and 90% are minorities, always exceed the available money.