It’s budget time here, and every municipality in my area is trying to balance the books. One of the more controversial cost-cutting tactics to come to light this week is the Toronto Catholic school board’s decision to eliminate teacher-librarians in ALL of its elementary schools.
As the Toronto Star write-up explains, teacher-librarians play a significant role in early literacy because, unlike the lesser-paid library technicians, they are both trained librarians and also certified teachers as well.
Part of the problem is that teacher-librarians are allocated in the province’s funding on a per-child basis, not a per-school basis. The provincial funding formula accounts for one full-time teacher-librarian for every 769 students. If your school has fewer students, you have to fight for time with a shared teacher.
Another issue is that Toronto is a city which is choke-holded by union contracts. There is little flexibility in some municipal budgets since unionized payroll obligations account for such a large chunk. So what’s been happening is that the different departments are simply being told ‘here is the money, YOU figure it out.’ The cuts are painful, but have to come from somewhere.
The story was the talk of our staffroom this morning—we ourselves do NOT have a teacher-librarian, but still, we felt the loss. The bottom line is though, the cuts have to come from somewhere. Do we keep the teacher-librarians and cut special education? Or music? Or art? The problem is that none of that is any less important. So what can be done?