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D.C. council member Evans pushes for librarians, art and music teachers at every school

Every D.C. Public School would be required to hire a full-time librarian, art teacher and music teacher under legislation that D.C. Council Member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) plans to introduce this week.

Jack Evans (Mark Gail/The Washington Post)

Evans explained his push for the change in his constituent newsletter last week.

“It is hard for me to believe that we continue to invest nearly $2 billion a year into our public schools (yes, that’s ‘billion’), with the highest per-pupil funding formula in the nation, and yet have the worst educational outcomes in the nation,” he wrote. “This suggests to me that our money is not being spent in the right places.”

The school system’s staffing guidelines provide for a librarian only at schools with more than 300 students. Schools with fewer kids can hire a librarian, but that means finding savings elsewhere in their budgets. In August, nearly 60 DCPS schools opened without librarians.

Fine arts staffing also depends on enrollment. Schools with fewer than 300 kids get half-time music and art teachers; at larger schools, those positions are full-time.

The cuts have led to growing worry about the divide between schools in affluent neighborhoods, where parent donations can help pick up the slack, and those in poorer areas, where parents don’t have the same wherewithal to write big checks.

Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson doesn’t deny that losing librarians is painful. But she has repeatedly said DCPS can’t afford to provide full programing at every school because many buildings are under-enrolled and need to be closed. Closures are expected to be announced sometime this fall.

DCPS officials declined to comment on the legislation, saying they haven’t seen it yet. “We keep students needs as the top priority of our school budgeting process,” spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz wrote in an e-mail.

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