Testimony of Barbara Dowdall to the BOE, April 30, 2020

School Library Month 2020

So although today is the last day of School Library Month 2020, allowing us (credit/blame Covid19 virus?) to celebrate only one of the 30 days, this proportion accurately represents the situation in Philadelphia public schools: one professionally-staffed library for every 50 schools. For each school that has one, 49 do not. I will pass on mentioning here that the schools currently library blessed are, by some coincidence, schools already privileged by student (family income) selection and/or considerable outside regular school district budget (university, alumni, parent/friends of groups) resources.
However, as a recent Washington Post article and New York Times article confirm, inequity in public school funding preceded this board’s installation, but the inequity in library services, in home computer and internet access, lacked concerted, visible attention in our school district until the virus crisis.
This board’s– majority of seven—(plus two new members’ appointments) transition to full 4-year terms, gives you the opportunity to set your own course, to establish your own priorities and principles, and to insist that they be put in place.
You can clearly state your goal to reinstate a properly-resourced, professionally-staffed library in every school and, with a task force of working and retired Certified Teacher Librarians, establish the date-specific stages for this restoration, beginning, of course, with the schools that, by race, income and test scores of students, are most in need. Celebrate this progress with International School Library Month in October. Celebrate 100% restoration by School Library Month 2021.
Just as the federal government, not 50 struggling governors, has the obligation to provide the resources to battle the pandemic, so the city’s Board of Education, not 200 struggling principals, has the obligation to provide the resources, libraries with Certified Teacher Librarians being one of the fundamentals of a quality system, that will battle the effects of poverty and lift the light of literacy and lifelong learning for all our students.

We’ll miss you, Dr. McGinley!!

References:

Declaration for the Right to School Libraries

Latest Study: A full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting student achievement