Delaware Bill Would Ensure a Librarian in Every School

A Delaware politician hopes to see school librarian positions mandatory in every school—and has filed a bill that would require it.
Baumbach_Paul

Delaware Rep. Paul Baumbach

A Delaware politician hopes to see school librarian positions mandatory in every school—and has filed a bill to raise support for their role. House Bill 152, which Rep. Paul Baumbach (D-Newark) filed in May, would ensure that every K–12 school in the state “...employs at least one library media specialist,” according to the bill. Baumbach wrote the bill after watching school districts in his area eliminate school librarians from many of their programs and buildings. The state’s largest district, the Christina School District, cut all its middle and high school librarians for the 2015–2016 school year. “When school districts encounter tough financial times, there are [positions that] they’re not permitted to cut because of laws, such as school nurses, and some where they can, such as teachers and school librarians,” says Baumbach, who is currently serving his second term. “This bill came out [while] one school district, in tough financial times, looked at places to save money. Since librarians were not specifically protected, they were on the chopping block.” While Baumbach was proposing the bill, he was concerned about earmarking funds for one job—and not others—which would mean creating another protected class, like school nurses, and putting non-protected ones at risk. He has already heard from one school board member who is opposed to the bill because it “would essentially tie the hands of the district,” says Baumbach. “I am not wild about different classes of employees,” he says. “But I also don’t like seeing classes singled out and eliminated. My first choice would be to correct our funding system. But that’s going to take some time.” The Christina district, reportedly facing a $9.5 million shortfall, tried to make that up by putting a referendum to voters in February and again in May, but both failed. All seven of its middle and high school librarians were informed about a month ago that their positions would be cut, according to Kathryn Davis, a librarian at George V. Kirk Middle School, who is losing her position. One of those librarians has decided to retire, Davis says, and the other six are being placed in district elementary schools—replacing school librarians with less seniority who are losing their jobs. “I feel badly I will not be able to help the kids here, and then I talk with the woman I am going to replace and I also feel badly,” says Davis, who has been a librarian at her school for the past five years. “She also loves the library and the kids where she is. And now she doesn’t have a job, because I’m taking it.” Baumbach is well aware that his bill is compromised by a lack of funding. Delaware is facing a $60 million shortfall, and requiring librarians in every school would cost the state another $15 million. Meanwhile, Bill 152 is working its way through multiple committees, including education, followed by appropriations. To be enacted, it needs to be passed by Delaware’s House of Representatives and its Senate, and then signed by the Governor Jack Markell—all before the state’s General Assembly breaks by June 30. Even Baumbach believes that’s unlikely. He says that he didn’t propose the bill expecting immediate results. He hoped to make a statement that Delaware treasures school librarians and is looking for ways to protect them. “The role of librarians has evolved, and it is so critical,” he says. “A lot of computer learning is done in the library, and it’s a skill set we want to provide our children. But we’re not prioritizing it well, and that’s the mismatch I’m trying to at least bring up for discussion at this time.” Davis is grateful for Baumbach’s support and believes the only way to protect her colleagues is for elected officials to make budget decisions. “The only thing people can have a real vote on is whether to increase taxes for schools,” she says. “That’s hard to fight when people can say no to a tax increase.”
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Cynthia Ortiz

Thank you to Rep. Baumbach! We need more like him in EVERY state! I hope his bill will pass.

Posted : Jun 18, 2015 08:59

Alexis O'Neill

I second your comment, Cynthia. We are facing a national school library crisis and our kids are at risk. We all need to make much more noice about this issue!

Posted : Jun 18, 2015 08:59


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