Announcing that five Ypsi schools share one librarian, 826 Michigan asks for volunteers to staff libraries so that our children can once again check out books

    When I received the above message earlier this afternoon, I didn’t think there was any way that it could possibly be true… I knew, of course, that Ypsi’s schools had suffered severe cuts. Just a few weeks ago, I’d watched Linette design a poster for Fly Children’s Art Center, drawing attention to the fact that kids in Ypsi Public Schools now get, on average, only 20 minutes of art instruction twice a week. I knew that the situation was dire. But I was truly shocked to read that one librarian was servicing all of the children attending our five elementary schools. I wasn’t mentally prepared to accept the fact that we lived in a community where children could no longer access books… So, this evening, I contacted Amanda Uhle, the executive director of our local creative writing non-profit 826 Michigan, and asked her to tell me that, somewhere along the line, a mistake had been made, and this wasn’t really happening in Ypsilanti. Sadly, though, she confirmed it, telling me that, through Amy Sumerton, 826′s program director, they were working diligently to pull together a small team of volunteers, each willing to go into a school for a few hours a week, and help children check out books, conduct research, etc… I told her that I’d help by putting the word out… And, now that I’ve done that, I’m going to rant.

    How long are we going to put up with this insanity before we take to the streets and demand that something be done? What’s the breaking point? When do we start chaining ourselves to the doors of our public schools, demanding that our kids be given the educations that they’re entitled to? When do our kids, like the kids of Detroit, start walking out, and demanding what’s rightfully theirs?

    I totally respect the folks from 826 for doing this. Nothing could be more noble, in my opinion, than finding creative ways to overcome obstacles and put books into the hands of children. But at what point to we stop participating in this broken system? At what point do we stop covering for the legislators in Lansing who, quite honestly, would rather pay to incarcerate our children than provide them with educations, and the tools they need to pull themselves out of poverty? Their agenda, as we know, is to dismantle public education, and replace it with a for-profit system that allows corporate interests to siphon money from the public coffers, while destroying the teachers union in the process. We know this is the case, and yet we continue to rationally deal with each problem along that path as it arises, rather than to go after those we know to be responsible.

    Enabling the rich to pay less in taxes while our children are unable to access their school libraries, I would argue, is a treasonous act. And we need to start acting accordingly.

    Is there waste in the public school system as it currently exists? Yes. Should we work to eliminate it? Absolutely. But it’s not school teachers who wrecked our economy, and, contrary to what Mitt Romney might say, it’s not Big Bird that’s got us into debt. (The entire budget of PBS is spent by the military in a mere six hours.) We’re here today because of deregulated financial markets, a reckless foreign policy that put our troops on the ground in the middle east, and the Bush tax cuts. We are not here because we employed too many librarians, and spent too much in our socialist quest to teach toddlers how to count using puppets.

    Humanity, as we know, is facing a crisis the magnitude of which modern man has never seen. Our population is swelling, our natural resources are dwindling, and our ecosystem is collapsing. We are running out oil. The “dead zones” in our oceans are growing. Temperatures are rising. Species are dying off. And “thousand year” storms are becoming commonplace. We’ve not only left the next generation a dying world, but, now, terrified and consumed by greed, we’re taking away their educations. We’re taking from them the only lifeline that they have. If we were smart, we’d cut class sizes in half, recruit the brightest people in our country to become teachers, and invest in education at unprecedented levels. Instead, we’re upping class size, encouraging our most knowledgable teachers to retire, and effectively shuttering our libraries. This is not a viable long term solution. This is the way a civilization commits suicide.

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      43 Comments

      1. Cole Lewis
        Posted October 24, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

        We have five elementary schools? Are they hiding the two best or the two worst? How does my child get in (or out!)? Or, are they still paying a librarian to service the closed schools?

        Other than that minor point, I concur.

      2. Sparklemotion
        Posted October 24, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

        I would argue that my ipad has done more to put librarians out of work then these rich phantasms that you think are the root cause of all that is wrong in Ypsilanti.

      3. Posted October 24, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Permalink

        Yes, those poor kids sure love their iPads, don’t they?

      4. Posted October 24, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

        As for the mention of five schools, I suspect they mean everything before high school, which would include Erickson, Estabrook, Perry, Ypsi Middle and Adams STEM Academy. I’m not sure though. I’ll ask.

      5. Sparklemotion
        Posted October 24, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

        So you don’t thonk libraries are headed in the same direction as VHS?

      6. atf
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:20 am | Permalink

        No

      7. josh
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:58 am | Permalink

        what a useless comment, sparklemotion. if the undebatable fact of cause and effect—cut budgets resulting in cut staff—doesn’t suit your idle, meaningless opinion, change your opinion. not the facts. it takes a lot less energy to just accept facts than it does to make up new ones.

      8. Edward
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 5:49 am | Permalink

        Once we eliminate PBS and school libraries, everything will be better. Just you wait and see. That’s when the economy will really take off.

      9. Oliva
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 6:27 am | Permalink

        Sparklemotion has a point. If we demanded that iPads be made w/o foreign “slave” labor (for all intents and purposes), they would cost a little bit more, but the necessary tax revenue could be received, and American workers could be earning $$ from making them, and we could get back to being a country that takes care of itself and is conscientious about what present-day decisions can mean for the future (and the present), caring about adequately funding schools and their libraries and the infrastructure that is so essential to opportunity and the chance for greater numbers of Americans to have decent, workable lives.

        http://www.change.org/petitions/apple-make-it-in-america

      10. Liz DMG
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 6:31 am | Permalink

        This is appalling. It seems like kids who don’t have that chance to wander through the stacks and choose for themselves are less likely to develop joy in learning and natural curiosity.

        But if we stop participating in the broken system aren’t we just ceding the power to those who have done the damage? How does that actually change anything? How is a person who’s time is consumed simply trying to keep her family above water supposed to make them change?

        I vote. I’m involved. I’m aware. I still don’t see that changing anything. I don’t have time to chain myself to the doors of the public schools. All I get is frustrated. How do we change it?

      11. John Galt Jr
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        Good.

        The children need to learn how to check out their own books. Having someone else do it for them just teaches them to be little looters.

      12. Emily
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

        Librarians do so much more than check out books. Untrained volunteers can help circulate existing books, but it takes a trained librarian to build collections, teach media literacy skills, and help students learn to find and sort through information (both in books and online).

      13. Posted October 25, 2012 at 8:30 am | Permalink

        Unfortunately, 826 is playing into the right wing gambit here.

        The American right aims to starve public services to the point where the citizenry has to provide it for themselves. On this surface, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, this thinking is flawed.

        Wealthy communities like Bloomfield Hills would have no problem banding together to put of the money for school librarians. Ypsi and Detroit, however, don’t necessarily have that luxury.

        The end result is that as remunerated public services become more and more scarce, quality suffers, and poor kids have to settle for worse schools.

        I do praise 826′s efforts, but I also want them to consider that by providing free services, they are setting an example which will further exacerbate savage cuts to even minor public services. By helping, they may actually be hurting.

        Clearly, there’s no easy solution at all. The great problem is that right wingers know this all too well.

      14. Stupid Hick
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        Behold, the failure of socialized education. Obviously the school libraries should be privatized. The Free Market would never let this happen.

      15. John Galt
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        Books are a gateway drug to Atheism and should be destroyed. This is a good first step, but it’s insufficient. We should give poor people the freedom to heat their own homes this winter using the books from Ypsi public schools.

        And, yes, son. These are monstrous little freeloaders.

      16. Posted October 25, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        Ayn Rand was an atheist.

      17. Mr. X
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

        You’re gonna kill his boner, Peter.

      18. Tommy
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 10:23 am | Permalink

        Scariest person in America?

        Black man with a library card!

      19. Tommy
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 10:25 am | Permalink

        We really need MLK and Malcolm X to raise up from the dead and stir up some shit. Imagine if either of those dudes were around today.

      20. anonymous
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        Has anyone thought to get in touch with the local retirement communities? This might be something up their alley?

      21. koosh
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        more people need to send their children to public school rather than whisk them away to private school in ann arbor. that way, the funding stays here and can be used to pay librarians or start fight clubs.

      22. Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        For what? To get them to chip in free labor, too?

        Why don’t we just fire all primary school teachers and just get retirees to volunteer their time? Think of all the money we’d save! Plus, we would have the added benefit of no longer having to deal with unions.

        Seriously, it may seem an exaggeration, but that’s what’s next.

      23. K
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

        That’s not how it works, Koosh. People who put their kids in private school still pay taxes that support public schools. You’re thinking of charter schools, which do divert money from public schools.

      24. Amy Sumerton
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        Mark, your post made me cry. And then the comments made be, by turns, want to pump my fist, shake my head, punch someone, high five someone else, and cry some more.

        There are cuts being made all over Ypsi schools. Some, TO A DEGREE, make sense. For example, TCs (teacher consultants) and Title 1 teachers do a very similar job. The district pays for TCs and the state pays for Title 1 teachers. (Am I oversimplifying it? YES. I raise my hands; have mercy, commenters.) A good friend of ours who was a TC at Adams was replaced by another good friend of ours, a Title 1 teacher. Did it suck? Yup. Did it make sense? To me, yes, mostly.

        Other cuts make almost no sense, among them, librarians. Is this a cause close to my heart? Yes. Because I was a shy kid in school, and the only place I really felt COMFORTABLE was in the school library, and, on weekends, the city library. There, I could relax and be myself and lose myself in good book after good book. Does it break my heart that — in addition to the added valued to a good education a school library affords — Ypsi students are being robbed of that simple pleasure? Yes.

        Is 826 “doing the right thing” by finding community members to volunteer their time so that the students can access their libraries? I don’t see how we couldn’t be. The kid in me shudders to think of all those books sitting alone, used, unopened in a dark room. The kid in me cannot imagine a scenario in which she would have been so displaced.

      25. lorie
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

        I guess I’d like to know what the volume of serivce was before the cuts and why Ypsilanti chose to cut librarians before extracurricular sports team costs?

      26. koosh
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

        k-

        i send my daughter to estabrook. i pay property taxes on my house, and the ypsilanti public schools get $7,513 from the state for my kid.

        my neighbor sends his daughter to oak trails montesori in ann arbor, my neighbor pays property taxes, but the ypsilanti public schools don’t get the $7,513 from the state.

        that’s how it works.

        maybe the problem is people don’t know how public school is funded. they must not teach that in private school.

        http://heritage.com/articles/2012/10/08/ypsilanti_courier/news/doc506dfead30a1a639638121.txt

      27. anon
        Posted October 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

        koosh:

        ypsilanti public schools doesn’t get that 7513, you’re right.

        but they also don’t have to educate your neighbor’s child.

        the problem isn’t people sending their kids to private schools.

        the problem is an apathetic citizenry, and republican democrats.

      28. Posted October 25, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

        Koosh does have an excellent point. A drain of students to privates and to schools outside the district does take away state money, and exacerbates problems of political apathy to improve local schools.

      29. Posted October 25, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        Thank you for your work, Amy. And I’m sorry that my readers make you want to punch people and cry. You deserve better.

      30. Posted October 25, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

        Amy, I’m a TC and I think they get federal $ for me. What I see is movement (at least in special ed) away from classroom special ed teachers and to the TC model. The TC model is not necessarily bad, but it is much cheaper. For instance, I go to 14 schools (it was 17 until they had mercy on my soul) and work with various kids. Instead of 14 TeacherPattis (and oh my God what a wonderful world that would be!), there is only 1 of me. The kids at these schools have other supports of course, and thus the system works (I guess).

        Koosh is exactly right in that sending kids to private schools does drain away the per pupil funding but personally I don’t have a problem with that. I wish parents would keep their kids in their local schools and fight the power, but at least they are shelling out for the tuition. I don’t like the charter schools which are often for-profit but are always (I think) held to lower standards and not as closely regulated.

      31. D'Real Graham
        Posted October 26, 2012 at 1:02 am | Permalink

        Amy Sumerton! Don’t cry.
        Continue to PUMP YOUR FIST.
        Allow folk to cyber-bully and over exert their opinions via the internet.

        826michigan is more than an asset to our community. 826michigan is a blessing. Amy…since the beginning you have mobilized young professionals, university students, retired educators and a plethora of enthusiastic creative people to voluntarily inspire School-Aged Students in Southeastern Michigan to reach their potential.

        Anyone can type a rant, or quote the obvious. However, I commend all people who are reading this blog, who have volunteered with 826. I salute those who are investing to help the Ypsilanti School District begin a new chapter in bridging the educational achievement gap. Problems within the school district have been identified…It’s time to resolve the issues with creative solutions. 826 is integral in advancing our students academic progress.

        Instead of jarring. Volunteer. Check out http://www.826michigan.org/volunteer —- We will train you. It’s simple. Assist teachers. Encourage Students. Give students attention to their thoughts.

        Money alone will not save Ypsilanti Public Schools. Students in Ypsilanti will prevail when ADULTS realize…it is more important to spend time than money on our children. Spending time…to cultivate our students interest. Spending time to increase their awareness.

        If you have time, spend time volunteering in our Libraries.

      32. koosh
        Posted October 26, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        d’real-

        so when you are elected to the school board, you solution to this problem of no librarians is going to be to praise your employer?

      33. Posted October 26, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        D’real might just as well be reading straight out of the Libertarian playbook.

        What we need is not volunteers, but for the citizenry to be willing to pay their fair share for public services. Clearly, Americans in 2012 don’t value schools, particularly when they service the poor.

        Honestly, volunteering is good, but entirely unsustainable. There’s nothing wrong with paying a professional to do a professional job.

      34. D'Real Graham
        Posted October 26, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        Championing organizations that mobilize volunteers to provide essential enrichment will be a priority.

        Students benefit from external supplemental instruction. It is important to integrate volunteer based programming within the district to support Teachers.

        Besides voting, and commenting on blogs…are you Koosh, and Peter going to actually invest any time working directly with students, or be present at forums to ensure our students are provided quality opportunities to enhance their academic experience?

      35. Greg
        Posted October 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

        “Students benefit from external supplemental instruction. It is important to integrate volunteer based programming within the district to support Teachers.”

        External supplemental education should be just that…external and supplemental. And, based purely on the definition of the word supplemental, you need to have a whole product, in this case a child learning at the state recommended level, in order to supplement. In this instance, you are just making up for the time the teachers have to waste teaching to state and federally mandating tests. That is not supplemental, that is trying to just get the child to the bare minimum of where they are supposed to be.

        I am all for volunteer assistance. I have tutored and proofread through my education and I have offered up my services as a librarian at our schools. And as much as it is true that it takes a village to raise a child, these students need to be getting a quality education in the classroom. From teachers, just like we all did back when we were children and education was important, not just a part of a stump speech or a cliche. Everything else, as you said, is supplemental.

        There is a difference between teaching people how to take a test or basic concepts and teaching them how to learn. Anyone can teach someone a fact or a concept. But to teach someone how to learn is a skill that is usually only found in teachers. We need to focus on getting them the resources to do this or we are just creating test taking robots, not thinkers.

      36. ledsbeaken
        Posted October 26, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

        The other day I noticed signs in two of my neighbors’ yards about voting for the consolidation of Willow Run and Ypsi school districts. Their children do not attend school in either district, but in Ann Arbor. I found it ironic that they had the balls to have an opinion on the matter. However, at least they are not apathetic.
        Unfortunately, it’s a spiral – the more families who look at Ypsi schools and decide their kids would be better educated elsewhere, the less money Ypsi schools get (per pupil) from the state, and the worse the district’s situation is. $7,000 is a significant chunk of money. I personally know 6 kids in my neighborhood who are going to Ann Arbor schools, and 2 others who are going to a charter. If they chose to keep their kids here in their local schools, it might just cover at least a part-time librarian’s salary and benefits. How can we incent parents to keep their kids in their local district, and work towards increasing the district’s resources and improving the quality of education here?

      37. eb6174
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

        This is upsetting. Sparklemotion’s comments don’t address the community / meeting center / place where minds can meet that a library serves. Computers don’t solve that, though yes, many people use them more often for quick research than going to the library. The way libraries are being used is changing but they are still very important, and it areas like this, the traditional usage is still very relevant.

        School libraries are different though. They aren’t meeting spaces for the community, but they are a place where kids will learn to love to read, research, and be media savvy. A father once asked me, “Why don’t you use words for subjects instead of Dewey numbers? Do you really expect kids to know this stuff?” If kids learn that when they are young (like my parents generation did, at school libraries), they’d be better at navigating the public library as adults too.

        I think it does play a little in to the idea that libraries can just be staffed by volunteers, which is not true, but I’m not an eschatologist who wants to foment catastrophe just yet. I think it’s amazing that 826 would help out. Also, I’m going to send this article to people in the Library Science schools at Wayne State and U of M. While I’d LOVE 826 to help out, it would be even better (and great experience) for library science students to help out in a place that really needs it!

      38. Joanna
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

        Hmmm. So let me just get this straight. The taxes I pay that are earmarked for schools don’t go to support my kid (if my kid is in a private school). They also don’t go to support someone else’s kid, explicitly. But don’t they support schools generally? Isn’t the per-kid allocation different because of the taxes paid by everyone, not just the parent of the kid in question? Unless my kid goes to another publicly-funded school and the money follows him, my taxes should go to support public schools. Or are they lying to me on my tax assessment? Forgive me if I’m being naive.

      39. Diane
        Posted October 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

        This story is near and dear to my heart. I am a former K-12 librarian who recently left the field (jobs are scarce!) and now gladly help out the good folks at 826Michigan as volunteer librarian (and some other things, too) while I search for a paid gig. 826 does truly important work for Michigan students and teachers and I value being a part of it. Love you 826 folks!!

        I hate to say it, but this move by the Ypsi schools doesn’t surprise me at all. Districts all over the country have been decimating school libraries, and cutting librarians, for years now because there’s nobody to stop them. Libraries are not protected classrooms, nor are librarians “highly qualified” teachers, under federal law. So library media programs continue to take the hit. Many legislators and school administrators just don’t get it. And they never will.

      40. anonymous
        Posted November 1, 2012 at 6:42 am | Permalink

        when neighbors start blaming each other for the ills of public education in American, you know we’re all fucked.

      41. ledsbeaken
        Posted November 1, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

        anonymous – just want to clarify I’m not blaming my neighbors for the ills of public education – there are far too many factors involved in that to pin it on well-intentioned parents! I like these people, and respect that they want to do what they thnk is best for their children. I understand the temptation – I want my kids to get an education that stimulates and challenges them, too- one that includes an understanding of library research and media technology. What bothers me is that, as a community, we are not pulling together and putting our collective energy into making our home district better, but rather that 800+ families in Ypsi (see below) who care deeply about quality education are taking their children and their energy elsewhere. By opting out these parents are contributing to the very tangible financial drain on the local school district that has a direct impact on quality – essentially, they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

        I read today in an AA.come article about new charter schools that Ypsi and Willow Run districts “have lost hundreds of students in the past five years – most to charter schools”, and that “in the 2012-11 school year, Willow Run saw more than 400 of its students enroll in a charter school. More than 800 children with addresses in the Ypsilanti district attended a charter school”. And that doesn’t count those that are going to AA schools of choice or private schools. Public school funding is a complex thing that I admit I don’t fully understand, but I know that the state funds based on head-count is a significant – like $6 million – portion that has followed kids right out of the district. What would Ypsi schools look like if we all kept our kids local and invested that $, plus our time and energy into ensuring that the schools meet our expectations?

      42. anonymous
        Posted November 2, 2012 at 7:31 am | Permalink

        charter schools are most definitely a plague. maybe even a crime.

      43. facebook stalker
        Posted March 29, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

        Ypsilanti Community Schools Supporters

        From parent Maria Cotera (a day late–sorry about that), who was wondering yesterday if the librarians would be discussed at the board meeting. Anyone know?

        Maria’s post from yesterday: Does anyone have any information on whether or not the YCS is rehiring its librarians? I heard from a parent that librarians are not being asked to re-apply. Can anyone confirm this? Also, there is an important board meeting tonight where proposals for the different “pillars” of the restructuring plan will be presented, but I have to be at WIHI to discuss the culture and climate group’s proposal. Can someone go to the Board Meeting tonight and report back (and perhaps ask about the libraries!!)?

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