On Tuesday, my friend Ina will work her last day as the Children’s Room Librarian at the main branch of the county library system after serving 10 years in this capacity. Although Ina is in her early 60s, she was not planning to retire this week. Her position has been cut from the budget. In addition, the library will be closed for yet another day of the week, leaving it open only 3 days a week. For this reason, I have no patience for government officials talking about low literacy rates and children unable to read and teacher accountability for this problem. I pay $4000 a year in property taxes to this county. If that money were put toward Ina’s salary, she could work 2 months a year part-time. And if 11 other people (out of the over 80,000 living in this county) were allowed to allocate their property taxes to Ina’s salary, then she would be back at work fulltime, serving our county’s children.
This coming fall, when children return to school, there will be no librarians at the elementary schools in our local school district. Our district has already cut excess, cut essentials, and is now cutting off arms, legs, and noses. The administration has also cut all “health technicians.” This position was a downgraded version of the school nurse that was created to save money (less-qualified staff, lower salary). Yet the health techs are trained in medical and health procedures. With them gone from the schools, there is no one on staff qualified and trained to, for instance, administer insulin if a child goes into a diabetic coma. Boy is our district a disaster waiting to happen now. Firing the health techs was about the most unwise cost-saving maneuver I can imagine (is it even legal?). Wait for the first lawsuit when a child is rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. I am being optimistic. I am assuming any medically fragile child who goes into crisis will live. Whether or not s/he will be literate is another issue.
This year’s Fourth celebration is just around the corner. And I’m thinking that two of the greatest institutions of a free society, the public library and the public school system, are being destroyed. While our libraries and schools are collapsing, the politicians argue about whether or not to tax the wealthy, which is really an argument about how much they fear crossing the corporations that put them in power. While our libraries and schools are collapsing, federal tax dollars are being poured into buying weapons for soldiers who are turning schools in Afghanistan into rubble, which is really about lining the pockets of those profiting from the military industrial complex. Poor Ben Franklin (who, remember, invented the public library). Poor Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. George Washington. Oh how the founding fathers must be turning over in their graves. One nation, under Capitalism, with liberty and justice for the wealthy.