Closing libraries in schools is the latest terrible education decision to come out of Texas.
The Houston Independent School District (HISD) is a massive school district, the largest in Texas and eighth largest in the country. It has 274 schools serving around 200,000 children, from Pre-K to 12th grade.
The district’s new Superintendent, Mike Miles, announced a new plan at a recent school board meeting to redesign a number of schools as “New Education Schools,” supposedly underperforming schools which need additional support.
But part of Miles’ plan, apparently, includes closing libraries at these redesigned schools. 28 libraries closed, in a time when states like Texas are challenging what students maybe allowed to read and be taught. Under the plan, the library spaces would be repurposed as additional classes, multipurpose learning areas, or spaces for discipline. 57 other schools are also being evaluated to decide if they should lose their libraries too.
According to a spokesman for the school district, the plan was signed off on by the school board earlier this summer, very shortly after Miles’ appointment as superintendent by the Texas Education Agency, who ousted Houston ISD’s original school board and replaced them without vote or consultation.
The spokesman, Joseph Sam, said that the current school district leadership “understand the significance of certain programs associated with libraries and will strive to maintain those valuable offerings.” But they don’t understand the value of books, or librarians, or their students’ free access to information.
‘For many of these kids,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in a Houston City Council meeting on Wednesday, “the library is their portal to the outside world.
“You cannot have a situation where you are closing libraries for some schools in certain neighborhoods and there are other neighborhoods where there are libraries, fully equipped,” he said.
Houston ISD serves a heavily underserved population, to make matters worse. Approximately ¾ of the students are from near or below the poverty line, and more than 4/5 are either Black or Hispanic. So perhaps it’s no wonder that as soon as the GOP-led Texas government was able to oust Houston’s chosen school officials, they set about destroying these students’ ability to aid in their own education.