Saturday, January 21, 2012

Will New Legislation Include School Library Funding?

I am always a bit behind on what's going on politically, but today I saw a post at one of my listservs regarding The Elementary and Secondary Education Act and school library funding. ESEA, to my understanding, is what we used to refer to as No Child Left Behind, and it is up for reauthorization and revision.

The ALA has a page up on its site about attempts to get some funding for school libraries into the ESEA legislation. According to the ALA, an amendment that would do just that was proposed but later withdrawn while still in committee because of lack of interest from committee members. If you scroll down on the ALA page dealing with this subject, you'll see that the organization is asking people to contact their senators and representatives to support school library funding as part of the ESEA legislation.

I don't know if the average parent is aware that school libraries have a little different mandate from the public libraries we grown-ups are more familiar with. They are not redundant, providing the same service, because they are supposed to support their schools' curriculum. They are supposed to provide books to support the science program in the school--on all grade levels. The same with social studies and, of course, reading. And if a school board decides to change its science programming, the school library's holdings should change to reflect that.

Your municipal library, which is providing materials and services for preschoolers up through senior citizens, can't funnel a chunk of its budget into providing books on your state's history to support the fourth grade curriculum in your school. That's what the school library does. Conversely, the school library doesn't spend its money on cookbooks or texts on investing for retirement. That's the public library's job.

You can't just assume that the municipal library is already doing what your school library does or that it can take up the slack if funding is cut for the school libraries in your town. For a municipal library to take on all the work of the various school libraries in a community, it would need great amounts of additional funding, not just for materials, but for space.

Notice I'm not even considering the option of not funding school libraries and just forgetting about the work they do. I can't imagine why anyone would want to eliminate outside reading and research for an entire student body. Talk about a situation that would create a divide between the haves and have nots--the kids from families with money for extra educational materials would be getting a much different education than the kids from families that couldn't provide those things. Yet they would be living in the same community and attending the same school.

Haven't Americans always tried to prevent that sort of thing in our educational system?

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