On February 7, 2017, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as America’s secretary of education. There has not been any new legislation, and it would take a little while to implement any, but I do have some concerns about the direction of education in America. With a new secretary of education, there’s potential for big change.
This is why I’m both a bit worried and hopeful:
My first and most obvious concern is my job as a school librarian. If charter schools become the norm for education, school librarian positions could be on the chopping block since many charter schools don’t have school librarians–only about one third did in 2015. Also, if public schools receive less funding due to charter school increase, it’s not unreasonable to think school librarian positions would be cut.
If charter schools take off (currently there is one in my area, no school librarian), maybe our communities will see our value and include school librarians. If charter schools are in the works, we need to make sure school librarians are part of the vision stakeholders have in their minds when they imagine a locally run, community school.
Even though charter schools are publicly funded, they have more freedom in regards to choosing curriculum and content offered at the individual schools. This hybrid status may create an environment where school librarianship values outlined by AASL/ALA are directly challenged by charter school stakeholders. Access to information and resources could be impeded if charter schools are able to offer overtly censored content. This concerns me professionally because I would find it hard to work in a setting where students may be unable “to speak and hear what others have to say” (AASL, 2016). I also find this upsetting as a member of society, not just as a school librarian.
If some charter schools prevent students from accessing uncensored information or inappropriately restrict the content to which they are exposed, maybe other charter schools will make a point to uphold ideals like the Library Bill of Rights and the Definition for an Effective School Library Program. Perhaps we can rely on our communities to value school libraries and what our programs provide to students, staff, and stakeholders.
Does anyone else have any concerns about the future of school librarianship or charter schools in general? For years we’ve all been hearing how libraries are becoming obsolete, and there have been major cuts in regards to school libraries. However, there are still school libraries and school librarians, and I’m fortunate that I get to be one of them, and I’m not stopping now.