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Proposed budget would eliminate school librarian positions in Franklin County

There aren't mass layoffs of librarians; they're just doing different jobs.
Robyn Mackenzie
There aren't mass layoffs of librarians; they're just doing different jobs.

A proposed budget for Franklin County Schools would eliminate all librarian positions in the next school year.

The county, just north of Raleigh, is one of the state's fastest growing. But Superintendent Rhonda Schuhler says the district is dealing with inflation, building maintenance needs, and the end of federal pandemic relief.

"Over the past four years, we've relied on $30 million in ESSER, or COVID relief funds to support various aspects of our operations from staff recruitment to instructional support to technology and HVAC upgrades," Schuhler said in a video message released in April. "These funds have offset our funding request to the county. However, this resource is set to expire in September of 2024."

To make up the difference, Schuhler's proposed budget asks Franklin County commissioners for an additional $3.36 million. This money, she said, will fund longevity bonuses, capital needs, and a projected loss in per-pupil funding due to charter school enrollment.

Librarian positions will be cut, but Schuhler said teachers and students will be able to access library materials.

"We're also going to be shifting our media coordinators into... vacant classroom positions next year," Schuhler said. "We will still have active libraries and we will provide media services, but this program will be supported by media assistants."

The NC School Library Media Association (NCSLMA), which advocates for school librarians, called the decision "unconscionable." Media assistants "lack the Master's level education and specific state-mandated training essential for a licensed School Library Media Specialist. As certified instructional personnel, school librarians are specialists in information literacy, a competency increasingly recognized as critical to student success in higher education and the workforce," the group said in a statement.

The budget is not final. Franklin County's manager will present a spending plan to commissioners on May 20. The NCSLMA is asking parents to sign a petition to stop the cuts.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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