The Texas Senate Committee on Finance held a public hearing Monday to discuss a bill, authored by Republican Sen. Jane Nelson that would give a $5,000 pay raise to full-time teachers across the state. But before it passed in the committee, there was pushback from a group of Texas school professionals who testified that the bill’s definition of “full-time teacher” wasn’t adequate.
Jennifer LaBoon is a library administrator with the Fort Worth Independent School District and President of the Texas Library Association. She testified during the hearing that she and her group would only support the bill if the designation of full-time teacher also applied to school librarians.
“We know that school librarians are, in fact, teachers; they teach students every day in the largest classroom in the school,” LaBoon says.
LaBoon says school librarians do work and planning that’s similar to what other teachers do, though it may not be obvious to everyone.
“We do lesson-planning, we do curriculum-mapping. We don’t just have one curriculum like a math teacher would or a science teacher would,” LaBoon says. “We are responsible for knowing all of the curriculum areas that are being taught in our schools.”
She says the role of the librarian is to enhance what the teachers are doing in their classes.
The bill’s exclusion of school librarians, LaBoon says, wasn’t malicious. Rather, she says she believes lawmakers were afraid of a “slippery-slope” effect.
“In a perfect world, they would include everyone that works directly with students,” LaBoon says. “I think that they just were concerned that … if they opened it up to librarians, there might be a case to bring in others.”
But LaBoon is adamant that school librarians are teachers.
“We’re still teachers working with students, teaching the curriculum, even if it’s not always in the most traditional way that you think of,” LaBoon says. “It’s happening organically sometimes, rather than planned and scheduled.”
She also says research indicates that students at schools with strong library programs perform better on standardized tests, though she didn’t point to a specific study.
LaBoon says she’s been to the Capitol several times in an effort to get school librarians included in the pay raise bill. She says she’s already testified at the Senate Finance Committee once before, this legislative session.
“They weren’t surprised to see us,” LaBoon says. “I completely believe that Sen. Nelson is going to stay true to her word and look at the numbers and see if it’s possible.”
She says that should be feasible because there are about 4,500 school librarians, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands of classroom teachers, so she says it wouldn’t “break the state bank.”
“Hopefully we will get to have an amendment moving forward,” LaBoon says.
Written by Caroline Covington.