The 2012-2013 school year in the District will feature 58 schools, all with populations under 300 students, opening their doors without the compliment of a school library and librarian. We are talking about schools that serve around 17,000 students.
This isn't about a disagreement over the value that an asset such as a school library will bring to the ongoing efforts to raise reading proficiency. No, this is about money.
It is reported that funding these 58 libraries would cost around $5 million. That would be out of an $800 million budget or just .6 percent. Cutting libraries at a time when DCPS is pushing towards a goal of having at least 70 percent of its students proficient in reading by the 2016-2017 school year makes no sense.
But neither does keeping public schools open that serve less than 300 students. Back in May, I went on record saying that we have too many schools with low enrollments. Almost 37 percent of D.C. public schools have less than 300 students. That makes for a terribly inefficient system. In order to afford the new technologies that we must bring into the classroom as well as the necessities such as school libraries, librarians and teaching assistants, the footprint of the D.C. public school system has to shrink.
As far as the libraries go, it is not too late to compromise for the 2012 school year by reassigning recently eliminated librarians that are still on the payroll because they were rated effective, a proposal that Chancellor Henderson says she will look into.
But the bigger issue of closing under-attended schools has to be the prime focus moving forward. The time has come for Chancellor Henderson to lay out specific plans for right-sizing the D.C. Public Schools footprint, insuring that the wasteful spending to keep open large schools with small enrollments will stop.
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