Monday, March 21, 2011

A Letter to our Senator

Dear Senator,

As your constituent and a school librarian, I am writing to ask you to reject the governor's budget proposal, which will allow school districts to use Library Materials Aid to purchase textbooks and software.

Currently, school districts receive $6.25 per pupil in Library Materials Aid towards the funding of books, magazines, and on-line materials for the school library. In many high-needs school districts, this $6.25 per pupil is the only money available to purchase reading materials for students. These funds are meant to be the minimum amount spent on these library materials, especially since the $6.25 only represents 25-30% of the real cost of a book.

Research studies conducted by nineteen U.S. states on their public school systems all concluded that: a professionally-staffed and well-stocked school library has a positive impact on student academic achievement. The most recent study conducted by Syracuse University, for example, revealed that students in New York state schools with a quality library program scored 10 points higher on the 4th grade ELA exam in contrast to those students in schools without a quality library program. Based on the results of these studies, it stands to reason that all available state funding designated for purchases for the school libraries should neither be compromised nor diluted by the state.

If, however, school districts are allowed to use Library Materials Aid for other purposes, students will lose out on access to quality reading materials, especially those in high-needs districts, where books are in short supply at both school and home.

For many economically disadvantaged students, exposure to the books in their school's library may be the only opportunity to select their own books to read for pleasure, research and to increase their knowledge in any given area. By maintaining a well-stocked library, my belief is that students will begin to value their school library and develop and appreciation for reading that will last a lifetime.

Please reject the governor's attempt to merge Library Materials Aid with Text Book and Computer Software Aid, as it will result in a diminished access to books in our schools, especially those serving low-income communities.

Shari Stack, Mepham High School Librarian

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