OH Department of Education Will Vote to Purge School Librarian Requirement

The Ohio Department of Education is trying to purge the “5 of 8” rule, which mandates that school districts hire five staff members in "education service personnel," including librarians, for every 1,000 students.
Ohio educators and district leaders are divided over the recent proposal from the Ohio Department of Education (DOE) to eliminate the “5 of 8” rule. The 30-year-old rule states that at least five of eight of the following full-time education personnel positions must be filled for every 1,000 students in the district: librarian, art teacher, music teacher, physical-education teacher, counselor, nurse, social worker, and visiting teacher. The DOE expects to vote on the resolution to eliminate the rule in March or April, says District 10 (city of Lima) education board member Ron Rudduck. FiveofEight“The 5 of 8 rule was originally created as an incentive for schools to hire educators in those specific positions in order to be eligible for additional state funding,” says Rudduck. “Over a period of time, the funding component went away,” he explains. “The rule was left, but there were no funds attached. The districts had to basically fund the positions themselves.” Feedback from educators about getting rid of the requirement have been mixed. Susan Yutzey, past president of the Ohio Educational Library Media Association, says that over the past ten years, Ohio has lost over 700 school librarian positions. But, she is concerned that putting the hiring power back in the hands of school districts may, in the long run, “adversely affects students insofar as their ability to be successful in college and university and career settings.” Urban district schools with the lowest budgets would feel the impact of the 5 of 8 elimination more than well-funded districts. “Look at a district, like Columbus City Schools, which right now…has a high school librarian in every building but one...where we experience the most difficulty is in the urban districts [around the city of] Columbus…they’ve got their middle school librarians [who] are also covering the elementary school," says Yutzey. "So that means typically, a library media specialist might be in your child’s elementary school every six weeks." Yutzey, a former high school librarian, adds that eliminating the rule will affect the quality of service librarians will be able to provide in the future. “We have some school districts in Ohio that have one librarian for every 10,000 students,” says Yutzey, and eliminating the 5 of 8 requirement will “have an effect that right now we cannot predict.” District 3 board member (Dayton) A.J. Wagner, says, “Nobody wants to eliminate these positions…[But]…if they don’t have enough money for these positions, then they’re gone.” Wagner adds that he doesn’t support the extra work that educators are forced to shoulder because of the absence of funding in specialized fields. Tim Katz, executive director of the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education, says that with the elimination of the 5 of 8 rule “…people are worried that schools will offer less to students throughout their K−12 careers in arts learning, physical education, and access to learning in library and media sciences…those things are as important, if not more important, to students’ success now than they ever were. They are certainly all crucial to success in the 21st-century marketplace.” All isn’t lost for school librarians, says Katz. Last December (2014), the DOE voted on placing a transparency provision for data reporting on school report cards in its Operating Standards for Ohio Schools and Districts in Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade, which directs education policies state-wide. By making school data reporting public, stakeholders will be able to track the employment of educational service personnel, including librarians, by school and district. Should the DOE vote to approve the revised operating standards for schools, the transparency provision will go into effect in the 2015–2016 school year. “We will be able to see exactly what schools across the state actually are offering in this subject matter,” says Katz. “And that’s a huge, positive step for the state to make.”
Terry Chao has previously written for DVICE, Dramafever, and Blackbook, and regularly waxes poetic about vegan food on her blog, Vegan Chao. She is perpetually on the hunt for the perfect vegan gummy bear, so feel free to shoot her a line on Twitter @veganchao.

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