November 17, 2008

My US Rep. On Media Specialists

"Dear Mrs. S_____:
I apologize if this letter does not answer your specific concerns, but I want to share the same text with all of those who contacted me about H.R. 2864, a Federal bill to require that all public schools have at least one media specialist on staff.  I have heard from a great number of people who are interested in this issue, and everyone seems to have a great deal of passion.  My hope is that this letter can help you to direct that passion in ways that will help you to reach your goals.
In response to my opposition to H.R. 2864, I received dozens of heartfelt explanations from media specialists about the roles that they perform and the value that they bring to our schools.  I received hearty endorsements from other local teachers who agreed that media specialists are performing a vital role.  I even gathered a few letters from parents talking about the very positive role that media specialists have in their children's lives.  I was delighted to read all of these letters, and they are a wonderful testimony to the commitment and success of media specialists.  But after reading all of these letters, my question is the same as it was before:  why does the Federal government need to require schools to hire you? 
Do you believe that if you shared these same letters with your principal, he or she would not want to seek out the funds to hire an additional media specialist?  If you shared these letters with the county, could you not convince those administrators-as you have tried to convince me-that your school system would be more effective with the addition of new media specialists?  If you submitted these letters to your state representatives and state senators-and even the State School Superintendent and the Governor- do you not think that you could convince them of the merits of your cause?
I ask these questions only because all of the aforementioned officials have both the privilege and responsibility to direct the education of Georgia's children.  As a Federal representative in Washington, D.C., I have neither. 
I do not question for a minute the value of the work that you do-but neither do I question the value of the English teachers, the science teachers, the art teachers or the band directors.  I am sure that you understand that H.R. 2864-the legislation that we are talking about that creates a federal law requiring local schools to hire media specialists-does not provide a single additional penny to the schools to pay for that mandate.  Does your school have extra money?  Is it obvious to you what-or who-would be cut from your current school budget to pay for this new Federal mandate of hiring media specialists?   I promise you that it is not obvious to me.  These are very tough choices, and the local officials mentioned above are entrusted to work with you to make them.
In a few of the more passionate letters that I received, your media specialist colleagues questioned my intelligence and my understanding (among other things) in numerous "colorful" ways.  I take no offense because I have long accepted that "passion" as just a part of my job; however, the point that they make is well-taken:  Washington is much too far away and much too disconnected from local schools to be entrusted with the education of our children.  Principals, and county administrators, state representatives and senators, and school superintendants and governors have been given this responsibility for a very good reason.
I will always believe that our children are better served by those who are closest too them, and I will continue to vote "no" on those pieces of legislation that seek to remove educational decisions from parents and schools and transfer those decisions to Washington, D.C.
Again, that you for caring enough to write to me.  I appreciate the work that you do, and I wish you great success if you continue your efforts to implement this proposal at the state and local level.


John Linder
Member of Congress"

Any thoughts on this kind of legislation?  Leave your comments!

(photo cc Kevin Steele)


doug0077 said...

Hi Ninja,

Not everyone is a big mandate fan:

Just another POV,


Teacherninja said...

Thanks you, sir. Is there any aspect of this business that Mr. Johnson has NOT thought and written about? Do check out his link above!

doug0077 said...


Just what happens when one is old as dirt and been worried about stuff for lots of years.


Kathy said...

I am kinda torn myself on the issues - while I am NOT a big John Linder fan, I am not so sure that I want the federal government telling me how to run my media center. It is job security, and in this day and age that might be nice, but I do agree with some of the points in Doug's post. Also, working in such a huge district as we do, even within our district each school is so unique, with different needs and populations, that I can't imagine if the district took away our (few) local school decisions so that all our schools were exactly alike, that might be what it would be like if the Federal Government got involved.

Now if they were offering money to schools to carry out this requirement- NOW that is a whole different story!

Kim Kasch said...

It seems such a shame that we talk about billion dollar budgets but can't hire media specialists for the schools. Kids will definitely need to know how to use multi-media tools to be successful.

BookMoot said...

In my district there is good support for school libraries. Even as budgets are under constant stress from fuel costs and other unfunded mandates, the school board has seen fit to continue to staff and fund school libraries.

I have to believe that it is the excellent work of our librarians that have kept our programs in the public eye. Their professionalism and passion are key to this support. It would only take a few people "phoning it in" to make people wonder, "why do we need a library anyway?"

Support has to be nurtured campus by campus. I've seen parents roar with disapproval when their kids' library time was curtailed but that is because they hear about the library program at home and understand how important it is to their child.

This is particularly important as principals hold so much power over a librarian's time and funding.

It is important that parents communicate with the principal about the importance of the library program. Parents have power. They can ask why their child could not check out a book because the librarian had been pulled to cover another class. They can (and should) ask why the librarian does not have time to order, catalog books and plan lessons because they have been put on the rotation with P.E. art and music.

Much of the damage to a school library program begins in the principal's office. This is where parents can make a real difference.

(There is NOTHING more gratifying to a librarian than knowing that parents are demanding more library time for their kids because "it their child's favorite time of the school week," let me tell you.)

The last thing a principal wants to hear from a parent is, "do we have to go to the school board about this?"

I also make it a point to contact my school board members, regularly, with research on the importance school libraries to test scores and student performance.

It is about advocacy and the folks who feel the pressure most, live in my neighborhood, and my town.

Alas, the further up the political food chain they go, the less they care about my concerns. It seems to me that their interest extends to the next election and no further.

Harrell Elizabeth said...

A voice from Florida. Librarians/Media Specialists in this highest paying district in the state have all but disappeared. I need to check my numbers, but we have lost, just last year alone, tens of thousands of dollars worth of books in my school, alone. How very sad. That alone is reason for Specialists, let alone their wonderful expertise! Ninee

Ms. Yingling said...

I haven't seen the language on this legislation. If it is one librarian per school, this would be great but really difficult in some areas. My husband went to school in a very small town in Iowa where the school district had as many students as my middle school. They had one librarian, and she was busy. There would have to be so many stipulations-- how many students per librarian, etc.-- that I think it would be hard to mandate this on a national level, and the funding would mean pulling other things from districts. It's a good idea in theory, but Linder does have a point that the responsibility for this may well work better on local levels.