By Rocco Staino -- School Library Journal
3/15/2010 --All certified school librarians in the Los Angeles Unified School District will lose their positions next school year if efforts to close the district’s $640 million budget shortfall fail.
Superintendent Ramon Cortines said pink slips will be sent March 15 to 5,200 district employees.
In a statement released March 2, school Superintendent Ramon Cortines said pink slips will be sent March 15 to 5,200 district employees. About half of the layoff notices will go to managers who hold teaching credentials, and most of the rest will go to elementary school teachers, certified middle and high school librarians, nurses, and counselors.
“It pains me to see such a large number of our employees receive notices, but with another deadline upon us and without shared solutions finalized, we do not have any other choice. This does not mean we won’t continue to seek alternatives,” Cortines says in his letter.
LAUSD is the third largest school district in the country and employs more than 150 certified librarians.
With no state mandate requiring a certified librarian in any grade, credentialed teacher-librarians in Los Angeles staff the district’s middle and high schools, while library aides serve elementary schools.
“It is heartbreaking that some of our libraries will be closed or unstaffed and that instruction in information literacy will cease,” says Karen Gonzalez, a teacher-librarian at Arleta High School, who will be affected by the cuts. “What is devastating is that our students will not have access to a school library, which for most is the only place that they can find reading materials. It is unbelievable that any school district would set back advances in literacy by choosing to cut the crucial teacher librarian positions”.
Gozalez, chair of the Library Professionals Committee for United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the district’s largest union, wonders if she will be reassigned to a classroom or be out of a job.
The 150 secondary schools affected house more than 8 million print and digital resources. “As we in the field know, the research is conclusive that appropriately staffed, funded, and stocked school libraries promote student achievement,” says Esther Sinofsky, the district’s director of instructional services. “Without teacher librarians, school libraries may be closed or offer limited services to our students.”
Sinofsky also says the current California budget crisis is having a tremendous impact on Los Angeles itself, which may mean cuts at the Los Angeles Public Library. “[This would] limit access to resources for our students,” she adds. “These cuts will hurt all our students, but especially the students with the most need of access to our school libraries.”
Superintendent Cortines has proposed four scenarios, which include salary cuts, furlough days, and tax hikes. These proposals have yet to be agreed upon, and it’s hoped that funding will be found to save positions. In addition to eliminating librarians, aides and nurses are also on the chopping block, as well as a proposal to suspend visual and performing arts programs.
If the proposed cuts are carried out, it’s unlikely that the district’s media services program can carry out its mission to help “students, teachers, and staff to become effective users of ideas and information and providing them with the vision, strategies, and skills to access and utilize current learning resources and technologies”.
However, Cortines has stated that he is “hopeful that the decisions made are temporary.”