You wouldn’t want to be seen running a Woolies like Victorian principals are now running their school libraries. Investments accrued over decades amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars are increasingly being left to be run by the “check out chicks” as “managers” are fired.
That’s what continues to be happening in Victoria’s government school libraries. Less than 13% of primary libraries have qualified teacher librarians in charge, including the 248 new federally funded BER libraries at $2-3 million dollars each. And that’s just the infrastructure. Now secondary schools are being battered. Three more qualified teacher librarians in large state high schools have been told they won’t be replaced on retirement or will be moved to other duties or into the classroom.
This leaves multi-million dollar resource centres in the hands of technicians and volunteers. Does the state see this practice as good management? Do they run their own “corporation” this way? Where is the educational rationale and accountability?
When Victorian schools went to ‘global budgeting’ in the 1990’s the writing was on the wall. Ever shrinking state budgets have meant that principals have had to cut here, cut there over the years. Gradually, all non-face-to-face teaching positions have disappeared – careers teachers, teacher librarians, student welfare co-ordinators and so on. Only the very biggest schools can still afford these. Also, time allowance for positions of responsibility have reduced to the point of disappearing. Special payments for positions of responsibility are also in decline.
Global budgeting is sold to the community as a way for principals and schools to determine their own needs. In reality, they have become a means by which governments of all persuasions have been able to continually slash education budgets without having to wear the pain. “The school made that decision” is the constant refrain when a well loved program is axed. Our situation is part of a much larger issue of declining education funding. Over the past 20 years, education funding in Australia has declined, as funding in other OECD countries has increased. We are now among the lowest funding countries in the developed world, 28th after Lithuania and Greece.
Local control of local schools is fine for local projects. But without adequate funding and without transparency in decision-making and accountability, it will only send us further down the educational and economic ladder.
Meanwhile, we await the federal government’s response to the recently tabled report on the Inquiry into School Libraries and Teacher Librarians, if there are any left by then.
20 September 2011
The Hub (with thanks to P.M.)