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The Roots of Literacy: Fund School Libraries

May 03, 2003

In "They Need More Ben Franklins Now" (April 27), the huge budget cuts to the nation's public libraries are decried -- a chilling tragedy indeed. What is missing from this story is the equally depressing plight of school libraries.

In California, credentialed librarians are losing their positions throughout the state because school districts claim they cannot afford them anymore. Funding for school library materials (books and electronic resources) that has already taken a 93% cut, from $28 per student to a paltry $1.91 per student, is being threatened with an additional cut, or even elimination altogether.

In the L.A. Unified School District, elementary library aides, who are the ones keeping school libraries open so kids can check out books throughout the school day because there are no credentialed librarians in the district's elementary schools, are being threatened with a cut from six hours per day to only three -- meaning libraries will have to be closed when the kids need them.

Everyone is talking about the necessity of raising reading scores and ensuring that all children are literate. What's the best way to accomplish this? Cut library staffing. Cut funding for books. Close the libraries for half of the school day. Then look at test scores. Then claim that education is failing. Then do something about it to turn the situation around.

Sandy Schuckett

Calif. School Library Assn.

Liaison to the Calif. Teachers

Assn., Los Angeles

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