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Legislative Update Jan 4, 2019

Now that the mid-term elections are over, both the US Congress and the PA General Assembly are reorganizing. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Dem) has just been named Speaker of the US House and now committee assignments will begin. In our state legislature, leadership positions have been decided but committees not yet finalized. The PA House and Senate Education and Appropriations Committees will be most important for PSLA members as we push to have companion bills in both the House and Senate to ensure certified school librarians in every public school during.

Although the PA House and Senate remain in Republican control as the majority party, there have been many changes (see below) due to elections and recent redistricting.  

Go to the PA General Assembly site to lookup who represents both your home address and that of your school (https://www.legis.state.pa.us/). Scroll down to “Find My Legislator” and enter your addresses.

In coming months PSLA will engage in a vigorous campaign to support school library legislation. Know who represents you!

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Librarian Cuts - It's that Time of Year Unfortunately!

Sadly, it is in April and May that I begin to get emails for panicked school librarians that staffing cuts have just been announced that will decimate school library programs for students and staff. Most librarian who contact me are completely surprised at the totally unexpected cuts and are so flummoxed that they have no idea what to do in response to the announcement. After having written so many emails on this situation, I am curating the best advice and sources here.

BEST ARTICLE (from a school librarian who fought this battle and won):

Fighting Cuts: How To Keep Librarians in Schools.” SLJ.com, April 3, 2018. Advice form Elissa Malespina, a teacher librarian at Somerville (NJ) Middle School and president of International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Librarians Network. 

Read the article and/or watch the 45-minute webinar at https://AntiochLIS.libguides.com/schlibcert/librncuts.

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Lower Dauphin Sits on One of the Largest Rainy Day Funds in the State, All While Eliminating Librarians

by Heather Lister

In an interview with ABC27 on May 17th, Lower Dauphin Director of Community Relations claimed, “You do the best with the resources you have before you go back to the taxpayers and ask for more money.” This statement was in response to a growing number of community members speaking out against reducing the number of certified librarians in the district, which is currently being proposed for the 17-18 school year.

The district is arguing that by eliminating the position of a middle school librarian, they will free up the funds to increase technology and make a more modern space. There are two issues I see with this. First, with this logic the district could eliminate math teachers if they invest in fancy calculators. Second, I had no indication that Lower Dauphin was under any sort of financial distress. So before making conclusions, I do what any good librarian does, I research.

As I began exploring the financial data to back up the district’s statement, I referenced several published documents from recent Board meetings. I learned that both State and Federal funding has increased, the employer rate for PSERS pension contributions is the lowest increase in 5 years, interest on investments increased 150%, contributions and donations from private sources is up 500%, and the district saw an increase in both property tax and earned income tax from the growth in the area. So why the need to cut positions? However, I understood that districts can’t rely on levels of federal and state funding so I continued searching. Just weeks ago, the Pennsylvania Department of Education released its updated financial reports for the 2015-16 school year.

One of the biggest takeaways from this report is that Pennsylvania school districts’ general fund balances now top $4.4 BILLION dollars and there seems to be a growing awareness of this issue. Naturally, I was curious what Lower Dauphin’s contribution was to this amass of money.

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Philadelphia School District Librarians: A Species Nearly Extinct?

The Philadelphia Inquirer examines the dwindling number of librarians in one of the nation’s largest school systems. The number of full-time, certified librarians in the Philadelphia School District is now in the single digits.

Read more on how shrunken Philadelphia school budgets are almost pushing librarians to the point of extinction.

School Librarians have a Profound Impact on Students’ Futures

Op-ed: Lancaster Online

School librarians have a profound impact on students’ futures

As a school district library department supervisor, I would love to say that, after 17 years in this position, my district has the perfect school library program. The reality is that our idea of perfection evolves. The needs of our students are constantly changing. So, too, our district’s mission and vision must change to meet the future-ready needs of our students...

Cathi Fuhrman, Ed.D., is library department supervisor for the Hempfield School District. This article was originally presented at a hearing before the state House Education Committee.

School Librarians Even More Important

Allentown Morning Call: School librarians are even more important in a digital world. (Nov. 7, 2016)

Advocacy Plan to Impact Decision Makers

The PSLA Board of Directors continues to be concerned about the support of school library programs by the decision makers. Based on feedback of a stakeholders’ meeting consisting of representatives of Commonwealth Libraries, Pennsylvania PTA, Pennsylvania Library Association, Education Law Center, and members of the House of Representatives, the PSLA Board of Directors is working on a three-year action plan. As part of this plan the Board has approved the following activities for year one of the plan:

  • Begin working on a plan for a public awareness campaign for school library programs for every child in Pennsylvania
  • Create a School Library Coalition
  • Advocate to restore and to increase funding for POWER Library services

The PSLA Legislation Committee will launch the campaign to restore and to increase POWER Library at our annual conference.

To help address the potential of more furloughs or position cuts of professional librarians and the reduction in library funding due to Governor Corbett’s educational budget, the Board created a letter that can be sent to the superintendent of any district that is cutting or eliminating professional staff. The following procedure needs to be followed:

Any librarian from within that district can request this letter by contacting Deb Kachel. The requesting librarian will need to provide the mailing and email address of the Superintendent.  If librarian wishes that a copy of the letter be sent to any other administrator or school board member, please supply the email address.

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