Poverty plagues school libraries

Gary D. Price writes:

At Mariposa Elementary School in Redlands, students scouring the school library for books on the space program can find them tomes that date back to 1965.

"We have books on the space program written in 1965 before man even walked on the moon," said John DeLandtsheer, the school's principal. "We've pulled those books. There's current literature out there that kids need. We want them to be able to check out two books a week."

However, funding for new library books is scarce. The school once had $11,000 a year for library books. Now it has $2,000.

While PTA fund-raising and some federal funding help offset the cost of library books, the school still "needs at least three to four times that much," DeLandtsheer said.

Like DeLandtsheer, many educators remember when California's school libraries received about $28 per student to stock library shelves. Now that funding is at its lowest ever $1.41 per student when the national average is about $20. As a result, school libraries have fewer books and less money to buy new ones making it harder to encourage students to read on their own.

Until 2001, schools got about $28 per student based on average daily attendance earmarked for library books. That amount has all but disappeared.

For Valerie Lichtman, being the librarian for the Rim of the World Unified School District isn't easy, trying to keep Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss books stocked and available.



If the average national expenditure for school library books is $20, I'd have about $20,000. As it is, my budget is less than that for everything: periodicals, online subs, books, equipment, and supplies. For the past 10 years my per pupil expenditure has hovered around the $4.50 mark, often dipping below $4.00.

It's good to see California make a turn for the better. Oregon, it seems, had to follow in Cal's Prop 13 footstep, and vote in Measure 5, a property tax limitation measure, that took about 10 years to really hurt. Well, it is hurting now.

I find the whole question of education spending vexing. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. outspends other industrialized countries in education:

The United States spent $10,240 per student from elementary school through college in 2000, according to the report. The average was $6,361 among more than 25 nations.

Yet the United States finished in the middle of the pack in its 15-year-olds’ performance on math, reading and science in 2000, and its high-school graduation rate was below the international average in 2001 — figures highlighted by Education Secretary Rod Paige.

The country fared better in reading literacy among fourth-graders, where it finished among the top scorers in 2001. But the declining performance as students grow older served as a warning to the nation, Paige said.

And yet it sounds like you are scarcely getting enough money to make a difference. $4.50 per pupil is next to nothing. I don't get it. Where is the money going?

Clearly the problem does not lie with school librarians. And while I'm not a big fan of teachers' unions, I don't really think the problem is theirs, either. I really don't get it. I'm baffled.

I apologize if I've veered somewhat off-topic. With a child in public school, this is a subject that gets me worked up.

The lottery. What a joke.

Anyway, I need about $3,000 more than what I have. That is just to meet state recommended MINIMUM. That would allow me to spin my wheels collection wise. What I love is spending about $700 on overhead lightbulbs. That really kills my budget.

Your link doesn't work, and it's not google (or otherwise) archived....So I can't read anything.Most of the money goes into bad design (why aren't your lights LEDs, or long-lasting, or ambient lighting (skylights/glass brick, etc)? Bad maintainence (I know some jamitors who're friggin pissed at the waste... and redundancy), and administration.As well as the educational system in itself. Teachers spin their own wheels, in order to justify their profession - making new buzzwords for old concepts, an d the like...-- Ender, Duke_of_URL®

That's funny, the link still works for me. Here is a plain text version that you can copy and paste into a browser location window:

I hear what you are saying, but I wonder why it seems to be worse in the U.S. than elsewhere? Why do these problems affect us more than other nations? My only speculation is going to sound elitist, but sometimes I wonder if (we) Americans care more about entertainment than about education. I do not want to believe that is true, but sometimes I wonder.

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