School librarians and counselors optional?

School Library Journal Reviews

(Photo credit: Pesky Library)

By Robert Mann

Perhaps all we really need to know about the misguided leadership of Louisiana’s elementary and secondary school system is that its superintendent and chairman really believe that high school students can do without counselors and librarians.

No, seriously. This is not The Onion.

On Tuesday, members of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) wisely reversed themselves and rescinded rules enacted in January which allowed school systems to eliminate guidance counselors if schools were “capable of providing academic guidance, postsecondary counseling and personal developmental support through alternate means.” In January, BESE passed a similar provision related to librarians.

In other words, counselors are optional if Coach Smith has few hours after practice to help students peruse college recruiting materials. And why should we pay someone to shelve books? The assistant principal can do that, right?

But don’t give BESE members too much credit for their new-found wisdom. It took an outcry from counselors, librarians and local school leaders to persuade them that Superintendent John White and BESE Chairman Chas Roemer were woefully wrong.

In January, only three of 11 board members voted against the White/Roemer policy.

Honestly, we understand that Gov. Bobby Jindal, White and Roemer are doing everything they can to privatize Louisiana’s public education system.

We aren’t proud that their slapdash voucher program is a national embarrassment and is being financed by cutting funds to local school systems.

We are chagrined that they are funneling state money to private schools which teach creationism and other kinds of pseudo science.

But it boggles the mind that our educational leaders are so blinded by their anti-public school ideology that they cannot see that students need qualified guidance counselors and librarians.

White and Jindal will, thankfully, be gone from the educational scene in a few years. Roemer will certainly run for higher office, so he’ll probably be gone, too.

But the damage these “leaders” are doing to Louisiana’s education system – and its children — will long outlast their political ambitions.

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