Sarah Jones

Houston Texas to Eliminate Librarians and Replace Libraries with ‘Discipline Centers’ in ‘Certain’ Neighborhoods

The Houston Independent School District will eliminate librarians and turn some libraries into discipline centers in certain neighborhoods, that just so happen to be predominantly low-income communities of color.

“Houston Independent School District will be eliminating librarian positions at 28 schools this upcoming year and utilizing some of the libraries as ‘Team Centers” where kids with behavioral issues will be sent, Click 2 Houston reported.

This is part of a “reform” program by the new superintendent Mike Miles, who was appointed by state Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who was previously a software developer and who advocated to convert the school district into a “home-rule charter” system. Morath was appointed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott.

Miles was appointed as part of a state takeover of Houston ISD (giving former Michigan Republican Gov Rick Snyder “Detroit emergency manager” and “Flint water” vibes).

“Currently, there are a total of 85 schools that have joined Miles’ program, and of those, 28 campuses will lose their librarians. The district said they will have the opportunity to transition to other roles within the district,” Click 2 Houston reported.

Scandal-ridden Mike Miles was appointed by the state as part of Texas’s recent takeover of the district, and doesn’t have a great past with education.

He brought controversy the last time he was in Texas to ‘fix’ education issues in Dallas, by doing things like paying his chief communications officer $185,000, which the Dallas News reported was “more than twice what she had made in Harrison” while other “early Cabinet hires made as much as $225,000.”

Then “There was Jerome Oberlton, Miles’ chief of staff, who resigned in 2013 because he faced federal indictment. He later pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks in a prior job in Atlanta Public Schools.”

On and on it went. Perhaps this history is why he was chosen to oversee Houston Independent School District. One can never be sure in Texas.

At any rate, Miles started in Houston “in a manner eerily similar to how he ended his embattled time in charge of Dallas Independent School District: with everyone asking where he was…”

Maybe he was really good at his job, though and the test scores went up and he attracted great teachers? Not so much. “… (W)hile his management methods laid the foundation for some future success in Dallas ISD, they also left behind various scandals, caused veteran educators to leave the district and ultimately scores remained largely flat on state’s standardized test.”

Whatever could be the motive then?

“Most of the 28 schools that were designated for the NES program are in the feeder patterns for Kashmere, North Forest and Wheatley high schools, which are located in low-income communities of color,” Houston Public Media pointed out, writing that Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner asked Miles to “reverse course on his decision to overhaul libraries in certain schools while allowing others to continue operating with dedicated professionals.”

“You cannot have a situation where you’re closing libraries for some schools in certain neighborhoods and there are other neighborhoods where there are libraries fully equipped,” Turner said. “What the hell are you doing?”

Turning libraries in low-income communities of color into ‘discipline centers’ is as racist as it sounds. Libraries are the ultimate sign of freedom and possibility, because they give kids and adults the opportunity to learn for free. They are a great equalizer. Cutting off access to libraries and turning them into little mini prisons to punish kids from lower-income communities is the opposite of what is supposed to make this country free.

Libraries uphold democracy by (my bold) “providing access to information so that citizens can make the decisions necessary to govern themselves. The public library is the only institution in American society whose purpose is to guard against the tyrannies of ignorance and conformity, and its existence indicates the extent to which a democratic society values knowledge, truth, justice, books, and culture,” Reading Rockets pointed out.

It’s safe to say that Texas Republicans do not value democratic society values and very much would like to impose the tyrannies of ignorance and conformity upon their constituents.

It’s not an accident that the conservative driven book bans are aiming at specific books that discuss racial inequality and LGBTQ themes and now Texas is using its state power to turn libraries in communities of color into “discipline centers.”

Right when you think we’ve hit peak encroaching fascism with banning books, Texas steps in to say ‘Hold my beer.’

Remember, courage is contagious. Democracy heroes can make a sidewalk library in a community being targeted.

Sarah Jones

Listen to Sarah on the PoliticusUSA Pod on The Daily newsletter podcast here. Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump. Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Connect with Sarah on Post,  Mastodon @PoliticusSarah@Journa.Host, & Twitter.

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