Richard K. Moore, infamous InfoSherpa, gives us the backstory on how California school libraries landed a spot on the California state tax form, which made it very easy for taxpapers to donate to school libraries.
Minow: Richard - Inquiring minds want to know. How did California school libraries go about landing a line on the state tax form, making it easy for taxpayers to donate money?
Moore: During Pete Wilson's tenure as Governor, we (school librarians) got tired of watching our legislation move through both houses with near unanimous support only to land on the Governor's desk and get vetoed (as had happened all through Deukmeijian's tenure as well). (For you young'uns W & D were Republicans who preceded Grey Davis) So we asked for a meeting with Governor Wilson's education secretary.
We asked him, "What would it take for the Governor to sign a piece of legislation?" He replied, "The legislation could neither spend money nor mandate programs." (Clever -- since that's what most legislation does.)
So I asked what it would take to place a line on the state tax form for taxpayers to donate to school libraries. (These lines already existed for other charitable causes.) He said legislation would do it. “Would the Governor sign it?” we asked. He'd look at it, we were told.
So we asked then Democrat Assemblywoman Delaine Eastin to carry the bill, she asked then Republican Senator Bill Craven to cosponsor, and we ran it by the Governor' office and incorporated his suggestions. Then we got it passed in both houses of the legislature and it landed on Pete Wilson's desk. He signed it. The School Library Protection Act. You could look it up http://www.cde.ca.gov/ci/cr/lb/liblaws.asp
Minow: That's great! How much funding was raised? Why did it go away?
Moore: The 1993 law said that if we failed to raise $300,000 in any year, the line on the tax form would go away. So we publicized it and met our goal each year. But, the biggest advantage we gained was public relations. The new law required that in order to qualify for five and ten thousand dollar grants, the schools would have to create School Library Plans. That means most of our 9000 schools submitted grant applications based on Plans they took time to create. The process made them very aware of what they had, and required them to decide how they would use the money. Very small schools especially liked the program because it came in grant sizes they rarely saw ($5,000 and $10,000).
This process was superseded by the California Public School Library Act of 1998.
In 1998, with the economy doing well, Governor Wilson went to Delaine Eastin (who with our support had been elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1994) with some surplus money and asked her where she wanted it to go. She said school libraries -- and the California Public School Library Act of 1998 was born -- with $158.5 million as a line item in the Governor's budget. It was to be distributed statewide on a per student basis at about 28 dollars per student.
That money lasted 4 years, fully funded, and provided about 700 million dollars over six years for the renewal of K-12 school libraries. It was promised that the legislature would leave the line item alone and revisit the process after ten years. But after Governor Davis was elected, he began to leave it out of his budgets. Governor Schwarzenegger began to put it back in with a promise of $99 million his first year, but used that money instead to settle a textbook lawsuit.
Minow: What's the next step, then, for school libraries?
Moore: We are back at step one as far as direct funding of school libraries is concerned. We still have no state standards for the staffing of school libraries, no standards for funding, facilities, technology, etc. We did get put into the old School Improvement Program, which is now called the School and Library Improvement Block Grant. Theoretically, each school will have someone on its Site Council who will speak up for the library when the school budget is discussed. But, in reality, with only 1400 or so credentialed school librarians out there in 9000 schools, most of that money will go to other needs.
When I visited schools in other states I discovered that they have high quality school library staffing and standards either because it is state law, or they have regional accreditation standards they have to meet. California is the only state with neither. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges accredits California, Hawaii and Guam. Hawaii is one school system which until recently had high standards for their school libraries. Guam and California tied for the worst reading scores in 1994. WASC brags about having “qualitative standards” which translates to, “How do you feel about your school?”
What we are doing now is what we did last year. We are pushing the legislature to adopt state standards for school libraries and to fund statewide database access for all K-12 students. The database bill has been introduced as AB 33 by Loni Hancock. [Correction: AB 333 - see Pamela Oehlman below. Also, you can search the bill's current status here - mm]
But NO ONE in government has ever challenged the wimpy guidelines suggested by WASC. The most we ever got was a list of 17 items to take a look at in your school library. It is the elephant in the room that no one will acknowledge. When I confronted them 20 years ago with the fact that they have quantitative standards for the CSU and UC systems, the head of WASC, Don Halverson, said, “Well, they wouldn't let us get away with qualitative standards.”
Richard wrote to me in an email (reprinted with permission):
"I need to remind you that Barbara Jeffus did a superlative job on school library history in the Fall 2002 issue of CSLA Journal at Jeffus, Barbara, "What's past is Prologue: A Timely Look at School Libraries," CSLA. Journal 26/1 (Fall, 2002): 11-14. JeffusHistSchoolLibs.doc"