Wilson to receive a new librarian following amendment to DCPS budget

Hadley Carr

The DC Council approved an amendment in the fiscal year budget to fund the employment of full-time librarians at all DC Public Schools. 

Prior to this amendment, which was approved on August 3, Wilson was one of 36 schools in DCPS without a full-time librarian. Nearly half of those schools were located in Wards 7 and 8.

The amendment reallocated $3.25 million from the enrollment reserve, leaving $20 million to cover personnel costs due to high student enrollment. Wilson received more than $100,000 to hire a full-time certified librarian.

DC Councilmember Janeese Lewis George introduced the amendment on August 2. 

Initially, the amendment received pushback from DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson who supported the sentiment of the amendment, but was concerned it would be inequitable.  

“This amendment is unfair to the 80 percent of schools that have sacrificed something else to keep their librarians,” Mendelson said in a council legislative meeting on August 3. 

Mendelson was further concerned with the funds lost from the enrollment reserve. “If the librarian amendment passes, DCPS will only have $3.5 million dollars in enrollment in the year we may need it the most,” Mendelson said. 

In recent years, the enrollment reserve has been in the 5 to 7 million dollar range. DC Council Deputy Director for Budget Jonathan Antista noted in the meeting that DCPS has always spent the allotted money in the enrollment reserve. If more money was necessary, DCPS would need to adjust other aspects of the budget to cover the costs of the reserve. 

Regardless, with the budget passed, Wilson is now in the process of hiring a new librarian. Long-time Wilson librarian Pamela Gardner has accepted a position at another school.  

As the head of a variety of extracurriculars, Gardner has left an impact on many students’ lives. For senior Reagan Allvin, Gardner had been a “beacon of guidance.”

When Allvin learned Gardner’s position would be eliminated, she took to social media to enlist the help of community members in protesting the change.

A couple of weeks later, the Student Advisory Committee (SAC)—made up of students from across public schools in DC—began to work with State Education Board representative Allister Chang “Working with students from across the city and directly with the policymaker [made] the possibilities for the initiative brighter,” Allvin said. 

In June, the State Board passed a resolution supporting a full-time librarian in every DCPS school. 

“A school is not a school without a library,” Board member Frazier O’Leary said in support of the resolution. Ultimately, the resolution had insubstantial legislative power as the State Board of Education has no authority on the DCPS Budget. 

Later in July, the SAC presented to the DC State Board of Education where they gave a student perspective to the recent budget cuts, putting the elimination of the librarian position at the forefront.

George’s amendment was the culmination of efforts from DC policymakers, students, and librarians. However, Allvin noted that it “is not the end of the battle for equity in public schools, it’s progress in a time where [it] has been stagnant.”.•