Libraries strained under Texas Legislative budget misfire

The Texas legislature’s irresponsible approach to school funding has had unintended consequences around the state, including impacting children’s access to literacy services, libraries, nurses, and counselors. Rural and small districts are disproportionally impacted, yet form the core of Republican voters. For example, at a recent library leadership meeting in Texas, I joined a group of 20 library leaders from around the state, all from districts with 10,000 students or under. The stories and challenges their students face are daunting, made worse by the Texas Legislature’s lack of responsible funding for education.

Two librarians manage all of their district’s 22 school libraries. In fact, many of the librarians at the meeting managed numerous libraries mostly staffed with aides with no required training. This means services like research instruction, college preparation, reading promotion, copyright instruction, literacy support, and more, may not be available to those students(whose urban counterpoints have access to these). This attrition in staff was directly related to budget cuts by the Texas Legislature in 2008 and has been exacerbated by lack of funding in subsequent legislative sessions. These cuts to library staffing are not all, of course—teachers, nurses, and counselors have also been eliminated. It’s like the state legislature is eating their own young instead of creating the best possible future for them. What “parent” does that? Provides less for their children than they themselves had? What state wants their children to be less well educated? What state legislature can look businesses in the eye and say we want your future employees, the economic engine of the state, to be less employable? It’s the height of irresponsibility for the future of our state. And it’s an embarrassment.

The librarians, especially those in rural areas, which have been the hardest hit, worry about their students. Said one — it’s already hard…

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