Pasadena Proposes Eliminating School Libraries

This article originally appeared in SLJ's Extra Helping.
By Lauren Barack -- School Library Journal, 1/20/2010 2:05:00 PM

Students in the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD) may be facing school days without a library under a proposal to balance the district’s $20 million deficit.
Calls to Superintendent Edwin Diaz’s office and Jeff Leming, acting president of Unified Teachers of Pasadena, which represents the school district’s teachers, librarians, and other staff, were not returned.
PUSD faces an $18.8 million deficit for the 2010–2011 school year, along with an additional $1.2 million in cuts. Closing school libraries would save the district a reported $1.4 million. The Pasadena Board of Education is considering a $120 parcel tax to make up some of the difference, an idea discussed at its January 12 meeting.
However, the $32 million the parcel tax could bring in over the next five years is expected to only stave off cuts to some programs, including advancement placement courses and college counselors. The elimination of school libraries and summer school, along with mandated furloughs, teacher layoffs, and other staff reductions are still on the table.
“There have been discussions, but a decision has not been made,” says Hilda Ramirez, PUSD’s communication coordinator. “We are not prepared to comment.”

PUSD is comprised of 30 schools, which include elementary, K–8, middle, high school, and two alternative programs in a city that’s famous for being home to the NASA field center Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), which manages JPL, and of course, the annual Tournament of Roses Parade every New Year’s Day.

Parcel taxes, a fee on private property owners that’s paid to school districts, have been passed in other cash-strapped California communities including San Marino, South Pasadena, and La Canada-Flintridge—neighborhoods that are geographically close to Pasadena. However, California as a whole is in financial distress and school districts are being forced to consider draconian cuts across the state.

PUSD is holding a special session on January 26 to allow the public to comment further on the parcel tax proposal, which residents could vote on by mail in May. The final budget for the school district, and a decision on the fate of its school libraries, is not due for approval until June.

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