February 10, 2008 in Opinion

The next chapter

The Spokesman-Review

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Three Tenors. Well, Spokane has the Three Moms, only they’re even louder. And that’s a good thing. A battle waged by Spokane mothers to ensure that school libraries gain more funding consideration has gained national attention.

The saga began when Lisa Layera Brunkan was stunned to learn that among Spokane Public Schools’ $10.8 million in budget cuts last year was the change of 10 librarians to part-time status. With the help of fellow South Hill parents Susan McBurney and Denette Hill, she produced an online petition and sent out mass e-mails directing attention to the problem. And they learned that the reduction of library services is plaguing schools across the state and nation.

Federal Way, Wash., has cut 20 librarians. Darrington cut two. Marysville dropped its only librarian, who was only half-time to begin with. Pomeroy has a combination custodian-librarian.

Perhaps because California has made deep cuts in library services, the Los Angeles Times picked up on the issue and wrote an article about the Spokane mothers that appeared in newspapers throughout the country. Brunkan says she has received supportive comments from all over. The president of the American Library Association showed up for a rally on the Capitol steps in Olympia.

In this information age, it is counterproductive to cut librarians and vital library media services as students increasingly turn to them.

The mothers’ efforts have resulted in bills in the Senate and House that would funnel more money to library services. After some unfortunate confusion over whether the funding in the Senate bill would be new money or come from current allocations, Substitute Senate Bill 6380 clarified the intent:

It is therefore the intent of the legislature to provide additional funding in the 2008 legislative session to help school districts keep their library doors open and accessible for their students while also encouraging the basic education finance task force to consider the crucial role of highly qualified certificated staff in its deliberations over how to fund the K-12 educational system and ultimately achieve the goals of education reform.

Wisely, the bill offers money to bridge the gap in the 2008-‘09 school year while shifting the ultimate responsibility to the task force that is reconsidering the state’s antiquated basic-education funding formula. The other bill, HB 2773, also calls for new money. Both have made it out of their respective committees.

The Spokane mothers have clearly struck a chord, and now’s it’s up to the Legislature to end the matter on a positive note.

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