Spokane Moms Win State Funding for School Libraries

Spokane Moms Win State Funding for School Libraries

The advocacy of three determined Spokane women has resulted in the first-ever state-level support for school libraries in Washington. A compromise budget passed March 12 includes $4 million, which breaks down to $4.09 per student, for the 2008–09 academic year to maintain and improve library materials, collections, and services, Lisa Layera Brunkan of Fund Our Future Washington told American Libraries.

“I really attribute [the victory] to the will of the state senate,” Brunkan said, explaining that she sees the “bipartisan, bi-chamber effort” as having been motivated by the the 49–0 passage in January of a bill that appropriated $12 million in state support for school libraries. “You had fiscal conservatives standing up and saying ‘I hope we can find the money’ next to Democrats saying how important they felt it was,” she recalled.

Despite the disparity between the senate bill and the final appropriation, Brunkan and FOFW cofounders Susan McBurney and Denette Hill remain exhilarated, and the three are already networking with members of the state legislature’s Joint Task Force on Basic Education Finance to get the importance of fully staffed school libraries inserted into Washington State’s definition of what constitutes a basic education. Although the legislative session ended March 12, the task force continues to meet in preparation for lawmakers’ deliberations in the fall.

They are also offering advice to grassroots movements springing up in several other states that support school-library revitalization. Brunkan said that Fund Our Future Oregon had its official launch on Olympia, Washington’s capitol steps February 1, the day that more than 100 people held a school-library rally. The Spokane moms are also in touch with organizers in Arizona, where school library media centers are in “dire straits,” according to Brunkan. Ann Ewbank of Arizona State University Libraries in Phoenix, agrees, and is encouraging citizens there to ask state legislators why Arizona Revised Statute 15-362 “states that anyone may operate a library, and ask them why libraries are treated differently than classrooms.”

Posted on March 21, 2008, modified on March 26, 2008. Discuss.