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"

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(photo cc Kevin Steele)