SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. (DC News Now) — Outrage is building in Spotsylvania County after its school division’s superintendent said getting rid of school libraries could solve a multi-million dollar budget shortfall.
However, that’s far from the only controversy.
In a memo from Superintendent Mark Taylor on March 28, the division’s leader announced 14 books will be removed from school libraries because they contain sexually explicit content and themes.
“In order to keep such books in our libraries and comply with the law, the division would have to devise and implement a system to notify all parents of the sexually explicit content of these books, offer parents a reliable means of choosing that their child shall have no opportunity to read these books, and offer alternative resources without sexually explicit content,” the memo reads.
The copies of the 14 books had to be removed by Friday at 4 p.m., at which point Taylor recommends they be donated to a public library.
The 14 books include: All Boys Aren’t Blue: A Memoir-Manifesto, by George Johnson; Like a Love Story, by Abdi Nazemian; Dime, by E. R. Frank; Sold, by Patricia McCormick; Out of Darkness, by Ashley Hope Perez; Beloved, by Tony Morrison; America, by E. R. Frank; Looking for Alaska, by John Green; The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky; Water for Elephants, by Sarah Gruen; Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe, by Preston Norton; More Happy Than Not, by Adam Silvera; The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison; and Nineteen Minutes, by Jodi Picoult.
However, some parents in the county are concerned that the book removal is only districting from another big issue: the possible defunding of school libraries.
“Part of me thinks that was a scare tactic because it got people riled up,” said Kassie Gregorio Palmer, a Spotsylvania public schools advocate.
Taylor said the proposed cut is because of a nearly $22 million budget gap. The cut would eliminate more than $4 million from the budget, and eliminate 63 full-time workers.
The proposal has sparked backlash, first at a School Board meeting on Monday, and then at a Board of Supervisors budget public hearing on Thursday.
Chancellor High School PTO President Bernadette Chimner said in an interview with DC News Now she fears the cut would hurt more than just readers.
“These kids are going there to learn how to code on computers,” she said. “They’re going there to interact with some of the technologies, some of the robotics are in the library… It shows maybe that a person hasn’t really sat down and looked at what goes on in that library and how those spaces are being utilized.”
Before jeers cut him off, Taylor started to say, “at least a handful of school divisions across the country have closed libraries as a cost-cutting –” at the school board meeting.
To help bridge the funding gap, the county is considering an increase to the tax rate by a dime, something Taylor supports.
However, even if the raise is adopted — and an estimated $19 million in revenue will become available — actions in Richmond related to the state budget could leave the school district with an $8 million gap.
Gregorio Palmer also supports the tax increase, but cautions parents should watch how the revenue is spent, citing concerns with how the board has funded public education for years.
“If it’s not spent well we could be right back where we are this year six months from now when we start the next budget season,” she said.