The largest public school district in the state of Texas is converting libraries in 28 schools into disciplinary centers and eliminating school librarian positions, local news outlets reported on Thursday. The alarming change comes as part of a sweeping reform program led by the Houston Independent School District’s (HISD) new superintendent Mike Miles, who oversees 85 schools. Of the remaining 57 schools with libraries, the district said each will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, indicating more libraries could be closed.
Under Miles’ New Education System (NES) program, libraries in the 28 schools will become “Team Centers,” where “kids with behavioral issues will be sent,” per the Houston-based NBC affiliate, KRPC. The district has said librarians at these schools “will have the opportunity to transition to other roles within the district.” Miles was notably appointed by the Texas Education Agency despite fierce opposition from local leaders; he’s previously led Dallas’ school district and oversaw a controversial program that tied teachers’ pay to standardized test scores, which saw long-time teachers depart due to pay disparities.
In addition to the shuttering of school libraries, Miles’ NES plan also entails “premade lesson plans for teachers, classroom cameras for disciplinary purposes, and a greater emphasis on testing-based performance evaluations,” according to Houston’s NPR affiliate, Houston Public Media.
The closure of school libraries and greater emphasis on discipline and student surveillance come at an increasingly bleak time for public schools across the country, amid rising censorship of LGBTQ identity and racial justice issues in Republican-controlled school districts and states. As teachers continue to face the threat of losing their jobs for teaching history, we’re now seeing this play out for school librarians.