New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

Capitol Update

by Mike Neppl, NYLA Director of Government Relations & Advocacy

 

Results of the NYLA/SLSA New York State Census of School Librarians

In 2014, after years of threatened and actual staffing and program cuts, NYLA introduced legislation to require schools guarantee students’ access to school librarians – the first such legislation in nearly a decade. Over the last 18 months, we have attacked this issue in earnest; NYLA worked with SSL and the community of school librarians to develop new legislation, and undertook a building-by-building census of New York State’s school librarians, in partnership with SLSA. The census has concluded, and we are now excited to briefly detail the initial analysis of those results.

Current Law & Regulatory Framework
New York State Law fails to guarantee any student will have access to the specialized services provided by certified school library media specialists (cSLMS). Instead, NYSED Commissioner’s Regulation §91.2 requires only limited access to cSMLS services for those students in secondary schools, and wholly ignores elementary school students – children at their most critical stages of educational development. Even if NYSED were to amend §91.2 to include elementary schools, its continued failure to enforce the existing language exposes the inadequacy of the entire regulatory framework. In order to best protect the educational opportunities of all students, access to cSLMS must be guaranteed by state law.

NYLA’s Proposed Legislation
In 2015, NYLA worked with Senator Hugh Farley to introduce legislation that requires all schools to provide students access to quality school libraries staffed by cSLMS. This legislation (S.3931/A.6784-A), sponsored in the Assembly by Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages, was developed in close consultation with NYLA’s Section of School Librarians (SSL) to best address the needs of each student, in every school building across New York State. The legislation’s proposed minimum staffing levels, largely reflective of existing requirements found in §91.2, are summarized here:

Student Population cSLMS Staffing Levels §91.2 (secondary schools only) cSLMS Staffing Levels S.3931/A.6784-A (elementary & secondary) Library Clerk Staffing Levels S. 3931/A.6784-A (new; elementary & secondary)
1-100 1 school period .15 FTE N/A
101-300 2 school periods .3 FTE N/A
301-500 .5 school day .5 FTE N/A
501-1000 5 school periods 1 FTE 1 FTE at 1000 students
2000+ 2 FTE 2 FTE 2 FTE
For Each +1000 +1 FTE +1 FTE +1 FTE

Gauging the Legislation’s Impact
Earlier this year, NYLA worked in conjunction with the School Library System Association (SLSA) to conduct an independent census of current cSLMS staffing levels in every elementary and secondary school across the state. Through SLSA’s incredible effort, NYLA has collected data on 4,316 of 4,502 identified schools – a nearly 96% response rate.
Benchmarking the data against the proposed legislation reveals several predictable results. As noted in the above table, the proposed requirements essentially restate §91.2 so the prospective compliance rates substantially reflect existing §91.2 compliance rates.

Under the proposed legislation,

  1. The statewide compliance rates for secondary schools is approximately 54%;
  2. Significant noncompliance among the “Big Five” school districts (NYC, Yonkers, Syracuse, Buffalo, Rochester);
  3. Substantial noncompliance among schools serving  “Average Needs” students; and
  4. Compliance rates improve in direct proportion to the relative wealth of a school’s surrounding community.
SECONDARY SCHOOLS Total Comply Rate
By Needs      
High Needs 204 162 79%
  Urban/Suburban 50 40 80%
  Rural 154 122 79%
  Large City 588 102 17%
    NYC 540 69 13%
    Big 5/Non NYC 48 33 69%
Average Needs 371 305 82%
Low Needs 143 131 92%
ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS Total Comply Rate
By Needs      
High Needs 458 280 61%
  Urban/Suburban 225 123 55%
  Rural 233 157 67%
  Large City 983 164 17%
    NYC 850 84 10%
    Big 5/Non NYC 133 80 60%
Average Needs 874 678 78%
Low Needs 380 314 83%

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most importantly, the census data illustrates the necessity of our proposed legislation: while the disparity in compliance rates between secondary and elementary schools show the requirements of §91.2 have a positive impact, substantial statewide noncompliance with those requirements proves the regulation is not enough.

Next Steps…
The census data provides us with many angles from which to advocate, and as we continue to analyze and apply this information, more will emerge. As we gear up to begin our push in the 2017 legislative session, we will continue working with SLSA and SSL to develop effective messaging on this issue.