Local: Education

Gray slams council bill requiring school librarians

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Photo - Students Amidon-Bowen Elementary School library in southwest D.C. (Examiner file photo)
Students Amidon-Bowen Elementary School library in southwest D.C. (Examiner file photo)
Local,DC,Education,Lisa Gartner

Mayor Vincent Gray spoke out against a bill introduced by the D.C. Council Wednesday that would require all D.C. Public Schools to hire a full-time librarian.

Is the mayor anti-reading? Not quite. D.C. Public Schools recently laid off dozens of librarians to balance its budget for the 2012-13 school year, and Gray said he supports the decisions made by Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

"When we did education reform ... we decided we would leave education to educators," Gray said.

Critics of the librarian layoffs say they can't understand how the District can improve its public schools if its not adequately staffing its libraries and ensuring children have basic reading skills.

Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, who introduced the bill Wednesday, wrote in his constitutent newsletter: "It is hard for me to believe that we continue to invest nearly $2 billion a year into our public schools (yes, that's 'billion'), with the highest per-pupil funding formula in the nation, and yet have the worst educational outcomes in the nation."

Currently, DCPS guidelines provide a librarian for schools with more than 300 students, with smaller schools choosing whether to fund a librarian out of their own pockets. About 60 DCPS schools don't have librarians this year.

Gray said Wednesday that he did not believe a librarian-less school to be a catastrophe: "I've seen emails that people say the world will come to the end if we don't have a librarian in a particular school. I think that's hyperbole, to say the least."

Evans' bill also would require schools to hire full-time art and music teachers.

lgartner@washingtonexaminer.com

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