The Elyria (OH) City School District is losing all of its media specialists for the coming 2013–2014 school year, with school libraries to be run by principals, teachers, and some media techs, according to its CFO, Fred Stephens.
After a $4.3 million property tax levy failed to pass in November in Elyria, the district is pushing through $3 million in cuts including its six remaining media specialists among the 21 non-core positions being lost, plus another 22 from administration areas, and 16.5 core roles from the math, science, social studies, and special education departments, he says. Other losses include seventh grade sports teams, as well as a high school television program.
The district hopes to avoid cutting the remaining $1.3 million, because of a new budget plan proposed by Gov. John Kasich which would send an additional $1.6 million to the district for the 2013–2014 school year, and another $2 million the following year.
The governor‘s plan, which has drawn ire from the Ohio Education Association, increases funding for gifted programming and special education among other areas, but actually reduces the amount per student each school receives from the current $5700 to $5000, says Stephens.
“There is more money in total,” he says. “But the argument is that there are some winners and some losers and that will have to be ironed out.”
Many in Ohio say the state has been in a battle with its legislators for decades since its Supreme Court ruled in 1994 that the way it funds public schools—through property taxes—is unconstitutional, as wealthier districts aren’t forced to make as steep cuts as areas that are less economically advantaged.
“And Elyria is one of them,” says Sarida Volante, president of the Elyria Education Association, an independent chapter of the state union, referring to the challenges Elyria faces in raising capital for schools. The district cut 52 positions last year, and also closed a school.
Last year, Elyria did not have any reduction to its media specialists, Volante says. This year, however, five of the six media specialists cut will be absorbed into other teaching positions, with one permanently losing her job because she doesn’t have other certification that lets her be placed elsewhere.
Without media specialists in the schools, the district is scrambling to find other ways to give students the library access that they need. Elyria is planning to work with the local public libraries to see how they might be able to step in with electronic links or even bookmobiles, says Stephens. In addition, principals will be asked to run libraries, with teachers then managing students in the libraries, he adds.
“They’re expensive for us to run,” he says of school libraries. “We want students to have access but not spend as much money on them.”
Stephens notes that Ohio’s school districts are also losing funds to charter schools—with each new one that opens taking added dollars away from existing public schools that have faced cuts each year. Elyria was paying just $300,000 to charter schools eight years ago—and today pays $6.5 million. “We wouldn’t have to make these cuts if we had that,” he says, of the money going to charter schools.
But even if more funds were to come back to Elyria, Volante fears that it’s very hard to restore what has already been removed from the schools. And while she has been told that media centers will continue to operate, she says the specifics on how have not been shared. “What we know is once we lose our media specialists, the chances of them coming back are very slim,” she says.