In a truly on-the-nose representation of what Republicanism wants America to become, libraries in at least 28 Houston public schools are being repurposed into "disciplinary centers."
No, that's not satire. ABC13 has a story on the reform ordered by the brand-new, state-appointed superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, and it consists of eliminating librarian and media specialist positions at the schools and turning the libraries into detention rooms.
That's what the people running Texas think is more valuable, after all. Who needs books when you can just cut right to putting the kids in their very first detention centers?
Former library spaces at some schools will be converted into rooms where students who misbehave will be relocated to watch lessons virtually, work alone, or in groups with differentiated lessons. Books will remain on shelves and students will still be able to borrow books on a honor code system.
"Libraries will be available to students who are dropped off at school before classes begin, or after school before they go home," according to HISD's statement. "Depending on each campus' needs, some library spaces may be repurposed into team centers, which are designed for students to continue working, individually or in teams, throughout the school day."
It's quite the concession for the new state-appointed superintendent to leave the books on the shelves. But all of this appears to be a cost-cutting move because God knows the state isn't going to put money into schools for anything except maybe more bullet-resistant doors out front. That means the books are almost certainly staying solely because Houston ISD doesn't want to pay anybody to pack them up. But there won't be a librarian there to keep track of the books, much less re-shelve them, and if students want to read one they're going to have to do it outside of school hours.
And if students aren't able to make it to the library outside of school hours because that's not how school bus programs work, they're out of luck. No reading for you, kid.
We're in the middle of a nationwide book-banning spree that has conservatives throwing fits about the audacity of school librarians stocking anything but Bill Bennett and David Barton fanfiction. This ongoing spree has seen Republican lawmakers vote to shutter public libraries rather than abide books they don't like on the shelves, but Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles might be the first to actually pull the trigger on firing the librarians and repurposing the rooms as child detention centers.
This is what a failed state looks like: lots of guns, lots of focus on discipline, and lots of contempt for anybody who looks like they might grow up to be a book-learner.
The more typical budget fights in American schools usually pit school football teams against Advanced Placement programs, with both competing for money and the sports teams winning out almost every time because parents aren't allowed to get drunk and heckle AP classrooms like they can on Friday game nights. Stripping educational funding so that you can better isolate the kids who need discipline is a hell of a lot less common. In an America currently playing footsie with each of the major tenets of fascism, though, it was only a matter of time.
As for who Miles is and how Houston got to this point? That's been a story all on its own. The Texas Education Agency pushed Miles into the role in June as part of its takeover of Houston schools, a dubiously premised exercise of state power and an especially curious move given that Miles’ brief time in a similar role in Dallas led to a string of scandals before he left after the district refused to boost his pay.
There's a lot of bluster going on about how the repurposing of school libraries into disciplinary centers is part of Miles' larger plan to do in Houston what he did in Dallas: boosting teacher pay but tying it to their students' standardized test scores and similar changes. These moves "failed to show any significant gains under Miles' tenure" in Dallas.
But "most" of the 28 schools that will have their librarians relocated to other campuses "are located in low-income communities of color," notes Houston Public Media, and again: You can't get a more on-the-nose example of how Republican-led states are trying to reshape our schools than removing school librarians in communities of color so that they can repurpose the rooms into disciplinary centers.
Are we supposed to pretend this is anything but what it looks like? Because it looks like writing off whole schools full of kids as needing detention rather than education.
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