Nadler: Senate advances bill making school librarians, nurses optional

School librarians and nurses are fundamental parts of Iowa schools.


Ben Allan Smith

The Capitol building in Des Moines is pictured on Saturday, April 29, 2018.

Zohar Nadler, Opinions Columnist

On Feb. 26, the Iowa Senate passed a bill that would allow Iowa schools to have the option of employing a librarian and a school nurse. The language of the current legislation suggests that schools in Iowa are required to have librarians and nurses. The new bill would allow nurses and librarians to be optional. Moreover, nurses and librarians would be replaced with associates who would not have a nursing degree or a master’s of library science degree.

The bill raises issues because librarians are a crucial resource for students. In addition, school nurses have health expertise that administrators and school faculty members do not. Moreover, the option of having nurses and librarians could cause disparity in schools across Iowa. 

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The bill was proposed in order to give more authority to local school boards, teachers, and administrators. While I can see why locals could understand more of what their school needs, there should still be certain standards that schools have to follow. Employing nurses and librarians should fall under that umbrella.

For one, librarians are a very helpful resource for students who need to learn how to research, navigate databases, and discover a love for books. In a world in which students are constantly surrounded by information, such as social media or the news, they especially need help on how and where to acquire knowledge. With the involvement of the internet growing in our society, students must know how to navigate it for information. A lot of the time, such navigation skills are taught by a librarian. 

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On the other hand, nurses are vital to the safety and health of students. There are plenty of possible occurrences that could occur at a school in which the expertise of a nurse would be necessary. What about kids with chronic illnesses? Or students who need health advice to be readily available to them? These situations should be considered before the bill goes any further.

The option for schools to hire a nurse or a librarian could also cause disparities across schools in Iowa. The schools that have a budget to employ a librarian could have more students who have information literacy versus the schools that do not have librarians in their budgets. In order to achieve more educational equity in Iowa, schools should be required to employ nurses and librarians. A mere option of librarian and nurse employment could lead to schools not being held accountable for the resources they should provide their students.

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While the bill’s supporters claim to help schools with potential necessary budget cuts, we deserve to know how schools could better allocate their money if not to provide health and research resources to their students. Health and knowledge are two of the most important reasons to attend school. Iowa students deserve to have such resources. While it is not to say that every school would choose to not hire a librarian or a nurse, it is an option — an option we should be wary of.