Teachers union funds books for Ohio schools, urges State to do the same

By: - January 8, 2020 12:45 am

Stock image from Pixabay.

What would you do with your piece of a $50,000 grant to help bring back Ohio’s school libraries?

Teachers in a Parma school hope to educate middle schoolers about dyslexia, to better understand the challenge some fellow students face.

Teachers in Franklin County want to provide bilingual books and expose students to a more diverse background through language arts.

The Liberty Benton school district will now be able to give kindergartners one book a month for the rest of the year. In Warren County, teachers are planning to start a book club, starting with the book “I Am Jazz,” according to their application submitted to the Ohio Federation of Teachers.

“It is about a transgender teen and I think it could be very valuable to the staff who participate in the book club, because I feel like there are a lot of questions about being transgender and we presently serve several transgender students,” the application said.

The money is provided through the nonprofit organization First Book, which provides educational resources to low-income communities internationally. The OFT is distributing the grants for books that would have been otherwise part of school libraries, if the funding sources were there.

“It’s not uncommon to walk into a school and be told, ‘Oh sorry, our library isn’t here anymore; we didn’t have the money,’” said Melissa Cropper, president of OFT. “We think that’s a direct result of our schools not being properly funded.”

While Cropper said OFT appreciates Gov. Mike DeWine’s commitment to increase wraparound services at schools, the fact that there hasn’t been an increase in “foundation formulas” has hurt school districts.

“In an age where we’re pushing literacy, it’s really sad that our libraries are not being kept open and teachers are taking money out of their own pockets to buy supplies,” Cropper said.

In fiscal year 2019, the state of Ohio set appropriations from the general revenue fund intended for primary and secondary education at $8.1 billion, just $1 million more than fiscal year 2018.

Appropriations from Ohio Lottery funds, which are also earmarked for education, were $1.1 billion for 2019, and property tax funding amounted to $1.2 billion, according to data from the Ohio Department of Education.

The Ohio Lottery and property tax funds were the same as fiscal year 2018 numbers.

The latest state budget included $5 million for the Ohio Governor’s Imagination Library, a matching fund for each county, based on Dolly Parton’s push to mail children free books to promote reading from an early age. 

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Susan Tebben
Susan Tebben

Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.