Local: Education

D.C. library budget boosted at schools' expense, Councilman David Catania says

By |
Local,DC,Education,Rachel Baye,David Catania

D.C. Council Education Committee Chairman David Catania questioned Mayor Vincent Gray's proposal to add 132 jobs to the city's public libraries while cutting full-time librarians from more than a dozen public schools.

Gray proposed adding $10 million to the D.C. Public Library's budget, including $8 million to staff extended hours slated to start Oct. 1.

Since both the D.C. Council and Congress have to approve the District's budget, the library system may not get the funding for new hires approved until mid-to-late summer, which would make staffing the extended hours starting Oct. 1 unrealistic, Catania warned. That probably will be made more difficult by the fact that the libraries have 28 funded but vacant positions, many of which are expected to oversee the hiring process, he said.

According to Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper, the libraries are interviewing to fill or have already selected people to fill those vacancies.

Meanwhile, DC Public Schools changed the way it allocates librarians. This year, every school with at least 300 students has a full-time librarian, while smaller schools have none. Next year, every school with at least 400 students will have a full-time librarian, and smaller schools will each have a part-time library position.

As a result, 28 schools that have between 300 and 400 students and received funding for a full-time librarian this year are slated to receive funding for a part-time librarian instead, said DCPS spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz. Of those, 12 will have a part-time librarian, 11 will have a full-time librarian -- at the expense of another position -- and five will have a "library aide."

Catania questioned whether it makes sense to reduce services at schools to pay for library staff.

"Does it make sense to park all the money somewhere where we may not be able to hire?" he asked. "This committee has two budgets, schools and libraries, and unfortunately, it is a zero-sum game."

But Gray's office said Catania's logic was flawed.

"Unfortunately, Mr. Catania is comparing apples to oranges here and conflating two very separate issues," said Gray spokesman Pedro Ribeiro. "The [fiscal] 2014 budget increases library hours significantly and brings the Northeast [and Woodridge branches] back online, which requires more librarians to be hired."

rbaye@washingtonexaminer.com

View article comments Leave a comment
Author:

Rachel Baye

Staff Writer - Education
The Washington Examiner