The libraries in 28 schools in Houston, Texas are being eliminated and being replaced with detention and punishment rooms, as reported by News Nation. The shocking development is called a “reform” and is part of the so-called “New Education System” being put in place by Houston Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles. He has explained, in an interview with National Public Radio co-host Leila Fadel, that schools “in working-class areas need good teachers more than they need librarians.” Evidently, for Miles, good teachers have a preference for punishment rooms over libraries.
Miles, as might be suspected, was not appointed through the usual channels, but through the Texas Education Agency, which now oversees public education in the state. TEA also replaced Houston’s elected School Board with hand-picked managers. It should be noted that this is allowed under state law due to the failure of a single school (out of 270 in the system) that had failed to meet academic standards several years in a row. Miles has made clear that they are carrying out a wholescale systematic reform.
Miles apparently has no understanding and/or respect for the role libraries have traditionally played as the secondary line of defense of education in schools. Librarians augment the instruction given to students in the classroom. They help students with research and with reading for meaning. At a time when purchasing a schoolbook almost requires a bank loan, libraries are a resource students can go to to complete academic projects, especially students from blue-collar districts and children living in poverty.