IASL Open Letter about #TheMastersDegreeMatters Campaign
We are hosting a copy of the Open Letter sent by IASL leadership to teacher librarians and school librarians across Iowa to aid folks who want to respond to the #TheMastersDegreeMatters call-to-action about the hearing for SB3080 on February 2nd, 2022.
Our colleagues at IASL need your help to get an urgent message to the Senate before noon on Wednesday, Feb 2nd.
As we told you last week, Gov. Reynolds proposed eliminating the Master's degree requirement for K-12 school librarians. Just yesterday, Study Bill 3080 was introduced with the sentence "Such license [for teacher librarians] shall not require the completion of a master's degree". Then, suddenly, they announced that the Senate Education Committee is holding a hearing tomorrow.
We need everyone's help to tell them that library advocates are paying attention and that #TheMastersDegreeMatters in Iowa school libraries. Dozens of organizations like the Iowa School Boards Association, the Rural School Advocates, and the Urban Ed Network of Iowa oppose the bill for various reasons. What's interesting to note is that organizations like the Koch Brothers funded Americans for Prosperity are for it. Taken together, the future of school libraries in Iowa is at stake.
This is a somewhat lengthy message, but please read it in its entirety.
Emergency Call to Action
ILA and IASL believe Governor Reynolds is using Senate Study Bill 3080 budgetary justifications to remove the master's degree language as a first step in reducing or removing teacher librarian requirements in the state of Iowa. The subcommittee meeting on this bill is occurring Wednesday, February 2, 2022. We need teacher librarians united as one across the state to oppose the change in language.
A week ago, we wrote to you about Governor Reynolds' plan to remove the master’s degree for K-12 teacher librarians in her FY2023 Budget Plan. IASL felt like we were getting out in front of this potential legislation, and asked our members and non-members to reach out through our EveryLibrary campaign.
Throughout the week on the slik-12 platform, we heard from teacher librarians across the state who weighed in on this potential legislation and our response. We have appreciated the discussion, and we want to acknowledge that your voices and experiences weighed heavily in our ILA/IASL joint Monday night meeting.
Action Required Today
We write to you today because we have an emergency, and we have 24 hours to unite and respond. Governor Reynold's plan to eliminate library-trained professionals became Senate Study Bill 3080 on Monday, January 31st. It goes to a Senate Subcommittee meeting tomorrow at 4 p.m. Their Zoom session will be open for a public hearing and response.
The language in SSB 3080 inserts this sentence in Division VI, lines 8 and 9, "Such license shall not require the completion of a master's degree" (see picture at bottom of the email). Monday night, after our meeting, ILA and IASL registered a position against the insertion of this text into Iowa Code Section 256.11, subsection 9.
ILA/IASL Position & Rationale
We want to offer you some clarifying points on ILA and IASL’s position, and why we believe ALL of Iowa’s teacher librarians need to be united in one response against the insertion of this language.
We acknowledge that the present endorsements offered by the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE) allow for more than one path to becoming a certified teacher librarian in Iowa (Endorsements 108, 109, and 174), only one of which indicates a need for a masters. A qualified teacher librarian needs only hold one of the three endorsements, and we value each of these paths.
Adding a statement that eliminates the requirement of a master's degree is only the first step our state government will take. The BOEE will have to take this bill, if it becomes law, and create the rules for endorsements and licensure. We have no way of predicting what will follow and that is a dangerous position to be in. In their attempts to assist districts with budgetary “burdens,” the BOEE has, in past efforts, attempted to eliminate much of the library-specific training Iowa teacher librarians receive.
This has been proposed by Governor Reynolds as a way to eliminate resource challenges (i.e. librarian salaries) that smaller school districts are faced with by needing to hire a teacher librarian with a master’s degree. (p. 39)
Governor Reynolds is proposing this as a budget issue, but we do not believe eliminating the requirement of a master’s degree will create additional teacher librarian positions for candidates that hold either a K-8 or a 5-12 endorsement.
In fact, we recognize this as a similar tactic to the attempted language edits in 2019, when it was proposed to make having a teacher librarian an option rather than a requirement. We feel that current state leadership is merely attacking the same issue from a different angle.
We feel strongly that removing this language will continue to deteriorate the quality of Iowa school libraries managed by endorsed teacher librarian candidates (with or without masters), and potentially lead to additional school libraries being entirely managed by clerks or paraprofessionals.
As a leadership group, we can’t think of a single example when Iowa teacher librarians were removed from schools and districts, and then were later added back. Most of us know, once a teaching position is removed from our building or district, it is a herculean effort to get the position back, and typically does not happen.
As teacher librarians we need to recognize that school libraries and teacher librarians are under attack because ILA and IASL believe that credentialing issues and Intellectual Freedom challenges are interrelated. If credentialed teacher librarians do not exist in our schools, there will be no one to fight challenges to Intellectual Freedom, and to provide the access to diverse resources that our students need. We believe we are not actually fighting for the master’s degree requirement, but for credentialed librarians to continue to be part of Iowa school library programs.
Now that you understand our position, we are reaching out to you to say that we need to be united in our fight, because as it presently stands, our legislators know that we are divided. Iowa legislators are already winning because they have divided a once unified organization that successfully and resoundingly defeated similar legislation attempts several years ago.
What We Need You to Do Today
How can you help today? (And we really do mean today, February 1st. The committee meets tomorrow, and our lobbyists have stated our letters need to be received by noon on Wednesday, February 2nd.)
Email and explain why this issue is important, and why we must hold the line and keep the present language in tact in Iowa Code Section 256.11, subsection 9. We do not want the wording, "Such license shall not require the completion of a master's degree" added within SSB 3080.
Email your legislator
You can find your legislator here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find
Use the SaveSchoolLibraries site to submit your letter to your local representatives, if that is a platform that works for you.
Share this concern via your friends, family, and social networks and ask them to advocate for teacher librarians as well.
NOTE: ALL emails to your legislators MUST be sent from a personal account, not your school account.
Finally, we continue to ask for your help. We recognize that not everyone is a member of ILA and IASL, but we need as many teacher librarians in Iowa to join as possible. Slik-12 is an excellent outlet to share ideas about our curriculum, policies, and practices in our libraries, but IASL is our professional organization within our state. IASL’s mission is to advocate for strong school library programs in all Iowa schools.
Please help us create a united response in our position on Senate Study Bill 3080. If you have already written to your legislator in support of Governor Reynolds' proposed change to remove the master's degree from the legislative language providing for school libraries, we ask that you email a retraction. Please email your legislator to say that after further consideration you now oppose the addition of her proposed language. Library-specific credentialing, and the professionals who lead K-12 library programs, are vital to the success of schools in Iowa.
IASL Executive Board