Archives for category: Libraries

Mike Klonsky reports that Sara Sayigh, the librarian for the DuSable building has been rehired. The Chicago school superintendent Forrest Claypool said “an anonymous donor” had funded the position. Mike suspects that student protests brought about the sudden change.

As one of our readers pointed out recently, the elite of Chicago don’t think that public school children need libraries. But the University of Chicago Lab School–where Mayor Emanuel and Arne Duncan send their children–has many librarians.

Mike Klonsky writes:

“While I’m elated to hear that students at DuSable (I still call it that) have their beloved librarian Sara Sayigh back, CPS’s statement explaining the whole affair, is borderline laughable. An anonymous donor? Really, Forrest Claypool? Are teaching and staff positions at CPS now like endowed chairs at the university, dependent on the benevolence of wealthy patrons? Is that even legal? Will it become part of the next collective-bargaining agreement (if there ever is a next)?

“We’ve already got high schools named after billionaires line Gov. Bruce Rauner, retired ComEd CEO Frank Clark and Exelon’s John Rowe. What’s next? The Ken Griffin Social Studies Teacher at Lindbloom? The Anonymous Donor School Clerk at Bronzeville Military?

“Sayigh’s retention means we’re back to three out of 28 high schools with a student population over 90 percent African-American that have a library staffed by a certified librarian. The others are Morgan Park High School and Chicago Vocational Career Academy.”

Sadly, DuSable is no longer a school. It is a building that houses three privately managed charter schools. They too need a library and a librarian.

When Jeb Bush’s Foundation for Educational Excellence expresses outrage, it should direct its outrage towards the budget cuts that have gutted necessary services for the students in Chicago, not at the teachers’ union that is fighting for the restoration of services. Patricia Levesque, if you were a high school teacher, wouldn’t you go on strike if your students didn’t have a librarian in their school? Wouldn’t you demand a restoration of budget cuts that took away most of the city’s librarians?

 

This press release came with graphics, which I did not include. The graphics show a dramatic contrast between schools that are majority African-American, and schools that are not, in terms of their having a certified librarian. The higher the percentage of black students, the less likely is the school to have a certified librarian. For example, 75% of the schools where the enrollment is less than 50% African-American have a certified librarian; 16% of the schools with a student body that is 50-90% African-American have a certified librarian; only 9% of the schools that are 90% or more African-American have a certified librarian. Contact Stephanie Gadlin if you want to see the graphics.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Stephanie Gadlin
December 14, 2015 312/329-6250
StephanieGadlin@ctulocal1.com

 

 

A CTU SPECIAL REPORT:

 

 

Just two certified librarians left at virtually all African-American CPS high schools

 

 

By Chicago Teachers Union Researcher Pavlyn Jankov, with assistance
from the CTU Librarians Committee

 

CHICAGO – For the last several years the CTU and the CTU Librarians Committee have been documenting the loss of professionally staffed libraries from district schools. The district’s failure to provide adequate funding has led to position closures, shifted librarians into classroom positions and left in disuse libraries that have been painstakingly built and supplied by their teachers. Constant funding precarity has also pushed out experienced and veteran librarians to seek other opportunities.

 

In 2012, 67 out of 97 schools had a dedicated certified teacher staffed as a librarian. After three years, half those high school librarians lost their positions or left their schools. This year, the proportion is reversed with just a third of all high schools having a librarian.

 

With the district’s implementation of student-based budgeting alongside deep budget cuts, and its continued reckless expansion of charter schools, CPS’ lack of support for neighborhood schools has led to enrollment losses and severe budget cuts across high schools. Segregated Black schools on the South and West sides have been hit especially hard, and when it comes to access to school libraries, the disparity has become startling.

 

The number of librarians staffed at high schools with a student population greater than 90% African American with a librarian on staff has dropped 84%, from 19 schools in 2012 to just 2 this year, at Chicago Vocational Career Academy, and Morgan Park High School. Across the 46 high schools with a majority African American student population, just 15% have librarians, and across the 28 high schools with an African American student population above 90%, just 7% do. In comparison, the dismal rate of librarian access across all CPS high schools is 32%. Such a deep disparity did not exist several years ago. In the 2012-2103 school year, 61% of high schools with a majority of African American students had a certified librarian on staff, compared to 69% across all district high schools.

 

LIBRARIANS RE-ASSIGNED TO FILL TEACHER SHORTAGE

 

Some schools that have library rooms without librarians actually still have librarians – but they are assigned as full-time classroom teachers. In 2013, 58 librarians were shifted into non-librarian positions. A librarian at a southwest-side high school reports that while her school has had a vibrant and collaborative library program that circulated over 9,000 books to students last year, her duties now include teaching several English classes. However, she felt lucky, as she has had an assistant, and managed to keep the library going with funding and grants.

 

Librarians are indispensable to not just students, but to fellow educators. Coworkers of Ms. Tamela Chambers, a librarian at CVCA – one of the few remaining librarians in a south-side neighborhood high school, described how invaluable it is to work with her: “We continue to challenge each other with projects that stretch our creativity. Working with Ms. Chambers literally leaves me ‘jumping at the bit’. I can’t wait to finish one project so that I can get into the next one.” At CVCA, they have collaborated over student projects for newscasts, documentaries presented at the Chicago Metro History Fair, service learning projects, children’s books on food deserts, collecting songs for use in AP U.S. History. Facilitating such projects are so important, Tamela said, because “libraries bridge the gap between academia and personal interests; a crucial connection that makes learning meaningful and relevant”.

 

Records indicate that CVCA has had a certified-librarian staffed for at least the last 15 years, a duration that many other south side high schools also shared until the last several years of budget cuts. This week, the librarian at DHW, housed at the DuSable school campus along with Bronzeville Scholastic Academy and the Dusable Leadership Academy, was notified that her position was closing. With the closure of the DuSable Library, a library that has been in continuous existence since the start of the historic DuSable school, the district shuts down the only functioning library staffed with a fully-certified librarian in a Bronzeville neighborhood high school. Sara Sayigh, the veteran librarian who received the layoff notice, explains the historic importance of school libraries: “Since 1936, DuSable has always had a librarian and during most of the time, more than one. This historic Black school is the alma mater of Harold Washington, Nat King Cole, Ella Jenkins, Timuel Black and many, many others. The library in this school always has given a sense of community to the building and it still does today. When you remove a librarian, you remove an entire service, and take something essential away from the whole building. At my school, it’s connected to the sense of the greater community.”

 

BY THE BOOK: CPS IS BROKE ON PURPOSE

 

Total funding for libraries across district schools has shrunk again this year, down to just $24 million, a cut of 20% from last year’s $30 million. The precarity of the CPS budget constantly weighs on teachers. K.C. Boyd, a veteran and celebrated certified librarian formerly at Phillips Academy left CPS this past summer to run the libraries program across the East St Louis school district. In CPS she faced a situation familiar to many veteran educators of subjects that are not considered by central office as core curriculum with dedicated funding – annual uncertainty of a continued position. She said “I had experienced a position closing on me in 2009 and vowed that I would never go through that again… This was a painful decision because this was the first high school library I was assigned, I had re-built the library from scratch, developed an awesome collection through grants and donations and turned non-readers at Phillips into readers.”

 

K.C. was one of several Chi School Librarians activists who met with former CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett last year to advocate for library funding and more teacher representation in curriculum development. She recounted how at the end of the meeting, it was apparent that CPS was not committed to their library programs: “Dr. Byrd-Bennett said that the projected figures for next school year looked grim along with our positions. She paused and looked all of us sitting at the table in the eye when she said that. I caught that message loud and clear.”

 

K.C. is happy in her new role managing and re-building a library program for East St. Louis schools, and she expressed concern that CPS has not prioritized libraries, especially in communities that have suffered disinvestment: “I think it is appalling that the south side of Chicago, in particular greater Bronzeville, the home of the Black Migration from the South has so few sitting certified librarians.”

 

The Chicago Teachers Union is committed to fighting for sustainable resources for CPS, for the district to re-prioritize our neighborhood high schools, and for dedicated funding for a certified librarian at every school.

I posted yesterday that the Chicago Public Schools’ board of education, appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, had voted to close the last high school library in Bronzeville.

 

The librarian who was terminated wrote a comment asking if readers of the blog would sign a petition to save the library:

 

I am the librarian in question. My students staged a “read in” to protest the loss of their librarian and library (cut after next week). The CTU’s facts are correct and I am the last librarian in a historic African American school in CPS.

 

http://www.dnainfo.com/chicago/20151211/bronzeville/hundreds-of-dusable-hs-students-stage-sit-in-protest-library-closure

 

There is a petition at the end of this article – also the “read in” was witnessed and reported by the Chicago Sun Times.

 

http://chicago.suntimes.com/news-chicago/7/71/1174223/students-launch-read-dusable-high-protest-losing-librarian

Reader Jack Covey left the following comment in response to a post about Utah:


“One of the first actions as newly appointed superintendent that really caught the ire of the community was to fire all of the librarians in the district including many reading specialists, citing potential increases in the cost of benefits under the Affordable Care Act. [ii] Smith also went on to explain that Ogden School District is the only remaining district on the Wasatch Front to employ licensed teachers as media specialists in their libraries. [iii]This turned out to be false, but deaf to the public outcry by parents, teachers, and students, the librarians did, indeed, lose their jobs. Many had been in the district for decades. After all was said and done, a handful of librarians remained.”
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A lesser known outrage during John Deasy’s reign of terror in Los Angeles schools was his treatment of librarians. Just after taking over, he made a speech at Occidental College calling them useless and a waste of money, and then went after them.

Once he closed school libraries and removed the librarians in charge of them, the next step was to keep librarians from being placed in classroom position—as most had 10-30 years seniority, and were at the high end of the pay scale—and fire them from the district to save money.

What happened next defies description. They were put through hearings that were right out of Arthur Koestler’s DARKNESS AT NOON. The intent was to “prove” that, though fully credentialed by the state to teach, their years as librarians rendered them unfit to return to the classroom.

http://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2011/05/18/lausd-doubts-that-seasoned-teacher-librarians-can-teach/

“… attorneys representing the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) asked Kafkaesque questions such as ‘Do you take attendance?’ of dozens of teacher-librarians appealing their layoffs in order to prove to an administrative judge that the teacher-librarians were not qualified to become classroom teachers. At least, that’s what observers such as Tobar and Nora Murphy, a teacher-librarian for L.A. Academy Middle School and blogger, have written about the hearings.

“What does taking attendance have to do with being a highly trained educator who is duly credentialed and who teaches how to learn? Here’s the connection: A recency rule established this school year by LAUSD officials (and upheld by an administrative judge) states that a teacher-librarian who has not taught in a classroom for five years is no longer, by definition, a qualified teacher, no matter how many years of service and training she or he has.

“And if a teacher-librarian hasn’t taken attendance in five or more years, she or he must not have been in charge of a classroom. The administrative judge presiding over the hearings upheld the recency rule, clearing the way for the trials. It is unclear when the judge will rule on the individuals’ qualifications.

“In a May 18 op-ed in the Times, Murphy said:

” ‘I have listened as other teacher-librarians have endured demeaning questions from school district attorneys, and I wonder how it has come to this. . . . The basic question being asked is whether highly trained and experienced teacher-librarians are fit for the classroom. LAUSD’s lawyers seem determined to prove they are not.

” ‘One librarian, who would like to go back to an elementary classroom if her library is closed, was asked to recite the physical education standards for second-graders, as if failing to do so would mean she was unfit.

” ‘Another teacher, who wants to return to teaching English, noted that she spent all day in the library effectively teaching English. But her inquisitor quickly started asking questions about the Dewey Decimal System, suggesting that since it involved more math than English, the teacher was no longer practiced in the art of teaching English.’

“Among those laid off is Leslie Sipos, teacher-librarian for the middle- and high school library at the brand-new LAUSD’s Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools campus, which was featured in American Libraries’ 2011 facilities showcase. ‘She hadn’t even gotten all the books out of boxes,’ Monroe High School Teacher-Librarian Annette Scherr told AL.

“ ‘The elimination of school librarians means the District is losing invaluable teachers whose educational specialty is empowering students with life-long, independent learning skills,’ wrote American Library Association President Roberta A. Stevens and Nancy Everhart, president of ALA’s American Association of School Librarians, in an open letter May 18 to the LAUSD board and administration.

“Urging the district to reconsider its decision, Stevens and Everhart asserted: ‘The elimination of these positions will have a devastating effect on the educational prospects and success of the District’s students. A good school library is not an option—it is essential to a good education.’

“As the grilling of teacher-librarians and other LAUSD educators proceeded, there was a presumption that state aid to education was going to be slashed yet again in FY2012, which would be partly responsible for LAUSD having a nearly $408-million deficit to erase. However, California Gov. Jerry Brown announced May 16 that, because state revenues had mushroomed $6.6 billion more than anticipated this fiscal year, he was recommending the restoration of $3 billion to education spending.

“If LAUSD receives the $300 million it would be due, it’s unclear whether it could help alleviate the situation in which teacher-librarians find themselves. What could help is the intense networking and outreach that members of the California School Librarians Association are doing to make the Los Angeles school libraries crisis as visible as possible.

“Teacher-librarians such as Scherr lobbied in the state Capitol with the California Teachers Association in mid-May for additional education funding, and even buttonholed California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who was among those backing the state’s adoption last year of model school-library standards. Authors Neil Gaiman, Bruce Coville, and Jane Yolen have been spreading the word through Facebook; Gaiman has also created a #savethelibrarians hashtag.
From Kafka to kiosk?

“Scherr and other LAUSD teacher-librarians remain determined, but according to the April 20 quarterly report on bond-funded projects issued by district Chief Academic Officer Judy Elliott, the district has already reorganized the Instructional Media Services, which supported the school-library program, into a new department: the Integrated Library and Textbook Support Services.

” ‘The Director position of Instructional Media Services is being eliminated,’ Elliott writes, noting, ‘ILTSS supports the instructional goals of the Superintendent and LAUSD by ensuring new school libraries will be made available to students. . . . It is understood that all libraries need a certified librarian, but budget constraints force us to investigate different options for the schools to implement.’ ”

“According to Scherr, Elliott testified before the administrative judge that there was no function a teacher-librarian could perform that couldn’t be performed by anybody else. That philosophy is reflected in the report, which goes into detail about the implementation of Follett Software’s Destiny integrated-library system for library and textbook inventory management. Principals are offered three options: Find external funding for a teacher-librarian to manage the software system; delegate a school staffer to learn and maintain the software; establish an unstaffed ‘kiosk’ self-check system so students and faculty can still access the library’s collection.”

And here’s Hector Tobar’s report at the LOS ANGELES TIMES:

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/13/local/la-me-0513-tobar-20110513

HECTOR TOBAR:

“In a basement downtown, the librarians are being interrogated.

“On most days, they work in middle schools and high schools operated by the Los Angeles Unified School District, fielding student queries about American history and Greek mythology, and retrieving copies of vampire novels.

“But this week, you’ll find them in a makeshift LAUSD courtroom set up on the bare concrete floor of a building on East 9th Street. Several sit in plastic chairs, watching from an improvised gallery as their fellow librarians are questioned.

“A court reporter takes down testimony. A judge grants or denies objections from attorneys. Armed police officers hover nearby. On the witness stand, one librarian at a time is summoned to explain why she — the vast majority are women — should be allowed to keep her job.

“The librarians are guilty of nothing except earning salaries the district feels the need to cut. But as they’re cross-examined by determined LAUSD attorneys, they’re continually put on the defensive.

” ‘When was the last time you taught a course for which your librarian credential was not required?’ an LAUSD attorney asked Laura Graff, the librarian at Sun Valley High School, at a court session on Monday.

” ‘I’m not sure what you’re asking,’ Graff said. ‘ I teach all subjects, all day. In the library.’

” ‘Do you take attendance?’ the attorney insisted. ‘Do you issue grades?’

I’ve seen a lot of strange things in two decades as a reporter, but nothing quite as disgraceful and weird as this inquisition the LAUSD is inflicting upon more than 80 school librarians.

” ‘With my experience, it makes me angry to be interrogated,’ Graff told me after the 40 minutes she spent on the witness stand, describing the work she’s done at libraries and schools going back to the 1970s. ‘I don’t think any teacher-librarian needs to sit here and explain how they help teach students.’

“Sitting in during two court sessions this week, I felt bad for everyone present, including the LAUSD attorneys. After all, in the presence of a school librarian, you feel the need to whisper and be respectful. It must be very difficult, I thought, to grill a librarian.

“For LAUSD officials, it’s a means to an end: balancing the budget.

“Some 85 credentialed teacher-librarians got layoff notices in March. If state education cuts end up being as bad as most think likely, their only chance to keep a paycheck is to prove that they’re qualified to be transferred into classroom teaching jobs.

“Since all middle and high school librarians are required to have a state teaching credential in addition to a librarian credential, this should be an easy task — except for a school district rule that makes such transfers contingent on having taught students within the last five years.

“To get the librarians off the payroll, the district’s attorneys need to prove to an administrative law judge that the librarians don’t have that recent teaching experience. To try to prove that they do teach, the librarians, in turn, come to their hearings with copies of lesson plans they’ve prepared and reading groups they’ve organized.

“Sandra Lagasse, for 20 years the librarian at White Middle School in Carson, arrived at the temporary courtroom Wednesday with copies of her lesson plans in Greek word origins and mythology.

“On the witness stand, she described tutoring students in geometry and history, including subjects like the Hammurabi Code. Her multi-subject teaching credential was entered into evidence as ‘Exhibit 515.’

” Lagasse also described the ‘Reading Counts’ program she runs in the library, in which every student in the school is assessed for reading skills.

” ‘This is not a class, correct?’ a school district attorney asked her during cross-examination.

” ‘No,’ she said. ‘It is part of a class.’

” ‘There is no class at your school called ‘Reading Counts’? Correct.’ ”

” ‘No.’

“Lagasse endured her time on the stand with quiet dignity and confidence. She described how groups of up to 75 students file into her library — and how she works individually with many students.

“Later she told me: ‘I know I’m doing my job right when a student tells me, ‘Mrs. Lagasse, that book you gave me was so good. Do you have anything else like it?’ ”

It’s a noble profession. And it happens to be the only one Michael Bernard wants to practice.

” ‘It’s true, I’m a librarian and that’s all I want to be,’ said the librarian at North Hollywood High School, who has been a librarian for 23 years and has a master’s degree in library science.

” ‘The larger issue is the destruction of school libraries,’ Bernard told me. ‘None of the lawyers was talking about that.’

“School district rules say that only a certified teacher-librarian can manage a school library. So if Bernard is laid off, his library, with its 40,000 books and new computer terminals, could be shut down.

“Word of the libraries’ pending doom is starting to spread through the district. Adalgisa Grazziani, the librarian at Marshall High School, told me that the kids at her school are asking if they can take home books when the library there is closed.

” ‘Can I have the fantasy collection?’ one asked her.

“If they could speak freely at their dismissal hearings, the librarians likely would tell all present what a tragedy it is to close a library.

“Instead, they sit and try to politely answer such questions as, ‘Have you ever taught physical education?’

“It doesn’t seem right to punish an educator for choosing the quiet and contemplation of book stacks over the noise and hubbub of a classroom or a gymnasium. But that’s where we are in these strange and stupid times.”

The move is on to privatize every public service and to squeeze a profit out of its budget by cutting staff and services.

The watchdog group “In the Public Interest” reports on the library privatization efforts and pushback by communities that love their public libraries:

Earlier this month, in yet another win for local control, leaders in one central Florida county rejected a proposal from a for-profit library management company to take over their public library. The company, Library Systems & Services (or LSSI), operates at least 80 public libraries across the country, but Marion County joins a growing list of municipalities who realized that LSSI’s claim to do more with less while still making a profit was a greater fiction than even Stephen King’s best stories.

In 2010, the chief executive of LSSI admitted to the New York Times that the company saves money by cutting overhead and replacing unionized employees. “Cutting overhead” can mean fewer services and reduced hours. Privatized libraries make up for less professional staff by depending on unpaid volunteers and automation. Of course, when outsourcing relies on cutbacks in wages and benefits to realize savings, the local economy suffers and income inequality continues to grow. The company claims efficiencies from buying materials at the national level, but critics contend this sacrifices a local branch’s ability to adapt to the needs and interests of patrons.

Even LSSI’s basic sales pitch that they can operate libraries for less than the public is suspect. When the town of Dartmouth, MA, evaluated a proposal to privatize their libraries, they found there was no evidence that privatization saved communities money. San Juan, TX, remunicipalized their libraries after contracting with LSSI for five years due to frustrations with the company’s refusal to divulge its profit margin. After bringing their libraries back under local control, town leaders were able to extend branch hours, giving residents better flexibility and access. The California town of Calabasas canceled its contract with LSSI and saved $68,000 in their first year back with public library service.

Back in Marion County, residents and Friends of the Ocala Library are celebrating their win to keep a critical public good under public control. In an inspiring act of solidarity, the local firefighters union, Professional Firefighters of Marion County, criticized the privatization proposal: “Strong libraries are essential to strong communities.” When neighbors join together to protect common resources, they strengthen their communities as well as democracy. And that’s no fiction.

Sincerely,

Donald Cohen
Executive Director

InthePublicInterest.org

This is a heart-warming story about the public library in Ferguson. It stayed open when the schools closed. It was a haven for children. Teachers volunteered to teach. The staff kept the library as a safe place for learning, contemplation, and knowledge. With all the disorder in the town, the library stayed open. It has been overwhelmed with donations, receiving half its annual budget in just a few days.

 

The library has seen a wave of support online in the wake of its decision to stay open following Monday’s decision that state criminal charges would not be brought against police officer Darren Wilson for killing unarmed black 18-year-old Michael Brown on 9 August. “Many other orgs closing. But we will stay open to serve people of #Ferguson as long as safe for patrons & staff, up to 8p. Love each other,” its staff wrote on Twitter on Monday night. “Normal hours tomorrow. We will have teachers and volunteers here to help kids from 9-3 since FFSD [Ferguson-Florissant school district] is closed!”

 

Then on Tuesday: “WE ARE OPEN! Teachers and volunteers are here 9am-3pm to help kids who can’t go to school today. Library open 9-4, presuming it stays safe … Wifi, water, rest, knowledge. We are here for you. If neighbors have kids, let them know teachers are here today, too.”

 

The branch describes itself on its website as “your hometown library”, which “encourages lifelong learning and serves as a community information and technology gateway, dedicated to making the City of Ferguson a rewarding, attractive, and pleasant place in which to live, visit, and work”….

 

On Wednesday, staff at the library tweeted that they had been “overwhelmed” by “generosity from around the country”, with donations from more than 7,000 people. “Amazing and humbling,” they wrote.

 

Never doubt the value of the public library, whose uses are many, whose doors are open to all, a place to read, write, think, learn, and find respite.

Yesterday, in response to a reader in Ohio, I posted an “Ohio Alert,” warning that the State Board of Education in Ohio would soon consider eliminating teachers of  art, music, and physical education, librarians, social workers, and nurses in elementary schools.

 

Several commenters on the blog have disputed the claim and said it was not true..

 

This article seems to offer a definitive explanation.

 

It is NOT TRUE that the vote will be taken this week. The state board will vote on this question in December. Forgive my error!

 

What will the vote be about?

 

Patrick O’Donnell of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes:

 

The state board will vote in December, not this week as some have claimed, on whether to eliminate requirements that local districts have a certain number of elementary art, music or physical education teachers, school counselors, library media specialists, school nurses, social workers and “visiting teachers.”

 

Administrative code requires districts to have at least five of these eight positions per 1,000 students in what some call the “5 of 8” rule. The state board is considering wiping out that rule and allowing districts to make staffing decisions on their own.

 

Tom Gunlock, the board’s vice chairman, said this morning that the proposed change isn’t to eliminate those positions, as some are charging, but to let districts make their own choices.

 

Should the state require districts to have these classes and services? Or is that a local decision? Tell us below.
“I’m sure they’ll do what’s right for their kids,” Gunlock said.

 

He added: “For years, people have been telling me about all these unfunded mandates and that we’re telling them what to do. They keep telling me they know more about what their kids need that we do, and I agree with them.”

 

Susan Yutzey, president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association, is urging her members to oppose the change. In a presentation on the change posted online, Yutzey said she and other organizations are “concerned that local boards and administrators will see this as an opportunity to eliminate art, music, physical education, school counselors, library media specialists, school nurses and social workers.”

 

So, if we read Mr. Gunlock’s view correctly, the state will consider changing its requirement that elementary schools must fill five of these eight positions. Requiring that all elementary schools have teachers of the arts, nurses, librarians, physical education teachers, and social workers is “an unfunded mandate.” Schools facing budget cuts could get rid of the school nurse or the teachers of the arts or teachers of physical education or social workers or librarians. The choice would be theirs as the state code would no longer require that every school must fill at least five of these eight positions per 1,000 students.

 

If I were a parent of an elementary school age child in Ohio, I would be very alarmed that the state board is making these positions optional. For warning that the state board is even considering such a nonsensical “mandate relief,” I offer no apology.

That’s easy. The arts and libraries.

One-third of public schools do not have a full-time, certified librarian. Schools in affluent districts do not fire librarians and arts teachers, so those who need these services the most are most likely to have cutbacks.

“Members of the American Library Association call it a national crisis, as colleges and careers increasingly require students to have expansive digital literacy skills. Some 20 percent of public school libraries do not have any full- or part-time state-certified librarians, according to a 2013 report from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

“Though physical book collections are shrinking in many districts, the role of librarians or media specialists is expanding. Along with fostering a love of reading, librarians teach students media literacy, in part how to research, analyze information and evaluate sources to determine what is accurate, says Gail Dickinson, past president of the American Association of School Librarians.

“The librarian’s ability to teach all students these digital literacy skills plays a large role in closing the digital divide between students with internet at home and those who don’t have access, she adds…..

“School libraries with more staff and larger collections lead to stronger academic performance, according to a study by the American Association of School Librarians. Students at schools with better funded media centers tend to achieve higher average reading scores, regardless of family income and parent education level.”

This is a very disturbing story. Approximately 8,000 books were removed from the shelves of Mitchell Middle School in Racine, Wisconsin.

Initially, librarians expected that 2,000 books would be “weeded,” but the number grew to 8,000, including “books on the Holocaust, Hiroshima, the Bible, the Koran, and Beowulf. In the end, over 8000 books were removed from library shelves.”

The Racine Education Association says the district plans to “weed” tens of thousands of books from public school library shelves that were copyrighted before 2000 or that are not aligned with the curriculum.

“While this is being passed off as business as usual, some librarians, who have been around since the 90′s, have never seen this happen. They want to know why is this happening now.

“One teacher said it’s quite suspicious that a parent of Pearson Publishing just happened to give a list of recommended books to buy recently. “The REA/REAA presence at the Board of Education meeting comes after repeated efforts by school librarians and by the union’s leaders to get RUSD to explain why it has ordered the purge and why it refuses—thus far—to halt the weeding until alternatives can be developed by the school librarians,” according to a statement released by the union.

Eick said the librarians are at a loss on how the books will be replaced. “There is not nearly enough money to buy enough books to replace what has been lost,” Eick said.

According to Eick, the union is demanding that:

● RUSD stop the “weeding” of our school libraries and reverse damage done to library collections.

● RUSD implement an appropriate policy with certified librarians taking the lead. ● RUSD provide children with access to a wide variety of quality literature and information.

● The Board to exercise responsible stewardship of the community’s educational resources.

See more at: http://wisconsindailyindependent.com/8000-books-removed-from-racine-public-school-libraries/#sthash.VVo5L1g6.dpuf

Sarah Darer Littman bemoans the fact that our policy makers are willing to spend more on testing while many schools have no libraries or librarians.

When she said this to an elected official, he responded: “Where’s the evidence for the benefit of libraries?”

In this post, she supplies the evidence. She cited the studies showing that schools and students tend to have higher literacy if they have libraries.

Yet, as she also reports, budget cuts are closing the doors to literacy.