A public school is the hub of the American community, and school libraries provide students the knowledge to better understand their world. But public schools and school libraries face a crisis at this time in history, and it’s important to question what has happened with CARES Act funding.
Americans in crisis recognize that public schools are the center of the community. Librarians have worked tirelessly alongside teachers during the Covid-19 pandemic to help students get books, and to help teachers with technology, but they haven’t had the best support.
Here are some of the crises where communities have relied on public schools for support.
- Many towns in California and Oregon were devastated by recent and past fires. Public schools served as a hub for their communities for those traumatized by the fires.
- During the Covid-19 pandemic, school officials, educators, librarians, and staff have worked to hold classes in-person or reach students remotely.
- During this time of unrest, where Americans struggle to accept each other and become better enlightened, public schools still hold the greatest promise to bring this country together. Librarians are at the forefront of introducing students to new literature more inclusive of diversity to bring students together.
Especially poor public schools have school libraries that have closed and librarians who have lost their jobs. The hub of democracy is in danger.
Before Covid-19, Philadelphia, Chicago, and other large cities faced budget cuts to school libraries, and Washington D.C. teachers were on alert that their jobs were in jeopardy. Now the fear is that Covid-19 might end school libraries, and school librarians will become casualties of the pandemic.
Education Week reported that the $500 billion in CARES Act funding, included $13.5 billion for K-12 schools. But that money was not likely to go towards school library needs. Instead, $45 million was steered to the Institute of Museum and Library Services. School librarians according to Education Week were told they had to prove they were valuable.
There’s been a concern for years that if brick-and-mortar schools close, and students transition to anytime anyplace learning with technology, described here by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and embraced by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, parents will be forced to rely on community libraries and museums to help with digital and hands-on instruction.
Another $30 million was allocated to state library agencies to determine who gets the money. School librarians were to fight for the remaining $15 million.
In the midst of grief and suffering, communities turn to their public schools. Teachers, counselors, librarians, and staff surround children, families, and citizens with support. Public schools are the places where we come together as a nation to learn, to cry, to laugh, to grow, and to argue. School libraries bind us together and help students to see our world clearly.
Community libraries and museums can be wonderful places and they might partner well with public schools, but they can never replace public schools as the hub of the community. Teachers, librarians, counselors, and staff make a public school. And while it might have its uses, a computer will never replace those in a public school who bring comfort to people during and after a crisis.
Here’s a report, cloaked in partnership speak, that suggests that museums will become community hubs “Building the Future of Education MUSEUMS AND THE LEARNING ECOSYSTEM.”
They say: Museums can be community hubs that help expand Internet access and digital literacy.