Testimony to DC City Council about Student Right to Read Amendment Act of 2021

The DC City Council is considering the Students' Right to Read Amendment, an Act that would fully fund school librarian positions in every school in Washington, D.C. beginning in FY2022-23.

The EveryLibrary Institute was invited to present testimony on November 23rd, 2021 to the City Council in support of the Amendment. It's the next step in our ongoing support for school librarians in DCPS.

The "Students' Right to Read Amendment Act" would provide stable funding to DCPS and would make permanent the Council actions last session. In the FY 2021-22 city budget, Council heard from thousands of residents and stakeholders that school librarians are critical positions and they used ARPA funds to increase the number of school librarians teaching and supporting instruction in the district. This was an important change that will help improve reading scores and student achievement and help foster a love of reading in all DC Wards. This session, it's time to make this an ongoing policy and fully fund a school librarian in every school. 

Our SaveSchoolLibrarians.org advocacy efforts stretch back pre-pandemic to provide digital advocacy tools, technical assistance, and on-the-ground training and support to school librarians across the district. We are always proud to stand alongside WTU Local 6 and other allies in this campaign. You can help by signing the petition and sending a message to DC City Council today and sharing it on social media. We are including the ELI testimony, below, to help inform the discussion. 

November 23, 2021

Council of the District of Columbia
Committee of the Whole
Public Oversight Hearing

Thank you Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole for holding this hearing on Bill 24-0443, the Students’ Right to Read Amendment Act of 2021.

The EveryLibrary Institute is a national public policy organization focused on libraries. Our network includes public libraries, academic libraries, and school libraries, including those in the District of Columbia, who are focused on the issue addressed in the Students’ Right to Read Amendment Act. We appreciate the opportunity to provide testimony in support of this legislation today.

Our observation for you is rather straightforward: The lack of stable Council funding for school librarian positions has created an unfortunate and unwise situation where individual school librarians are being “excessed” in order to balance local school budgets. In DCPS - like in so many other school districts - if you cut a school librarian you also eliminate the entire school library program. Effective school library programs need a qualified school librarian on staff to support learning and instruction. Otherwise, it is simply a reading room. It is important to note that DCPS policy on “excess” positions is not intended to be used as a formal reduction in force (RIF) or to be used to abolish to positions or programs. Passing the Students’ Right to Read Amendment will support student achievement and address these unintended and unnecessary consequences in an appropriate way. 

In our view, the “Students’ Right to Read Amendment” correctly identifies that the school librarian is a position that requires stable and consistent council funding in order to help every student in the District achieve their goals. A recent study of international reading scores, “Predictors of Reading Ability among Ten-Year Olds” by Dr. Stephen Krashen, has shown that the presence or absence of a school library program was the most significant factor in determining literacy levels and reading attainment. This affirms the findings of numerous studies in several states that demonstrate positive impacts on student achievement.

We would like to thank the D.C. State Board of Education for their consistent endorsement of a funding formula that includes a school librarian in every school. In June 2021, they passed SR21-4, a Resolution Supporting School Librarians in Every School, to urge this Council to fund school librarian positions in schools across the District regardless of enrollment size. Their focus on funding these positions is welcome given the educational, social-emotional, and EDI supports that school librarians provide.

Finally, we appreciate Councilmember Allen for introducing this legislation and the seven members of Council who have joined him as co-sponsors.  We urge the remainder of the Council to consider the key impacts of school librarians on students and the future of education across DCPS and join them in advancing this Act today.


John Chrastka
Executive Director
EveryLibrary Institute, NFP