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[Susan notes: Another letter suggesting another way to spend the money. People in other localities can use the idea, plugging in their own numbers.]

Submitted to Los Angeles Times but not published

Making the Case for Libraries

According to the LA Times ("Schools Tally Big Gains in Web Access",June 30, 2000), about 600 million dollars has been spent on computers
and technology in LA County over the last five years. The article notes that supporters of this investment "acknowledged that they no longer expect to see a direct impact on test scores or student achievement. Rather, they hope computer technology will improve teaching, which, in turn, should boost achievement. Showing a direct
connection between technology and student achievement--long an elusive goal of technology advocates nationwide--now seems naive, said James S. Lanich of the Los Angeles County Office of Education and the head of the Technology for Learning campaign."

There are about 1.5 million children in school in LA County. If 600 million were invested at 5%, it would generate 30 million per year, about $20 per child. This means one new book per year per child

Backers freely admit that there is no demonstrated connection between technology and student achievement. We also know that computers, in contrast to books, become obsolete very very soon. On the other hand,there is plenty of evidence linking books and quality libraries with
student achievement. LAUSD libraries are dismal. The national average in books per child in elementary school libraries is about 18 to 1.
California ranks near the bottom with 12 books per child. LAUSD is about six books per child! There is also no funding at all for elementary school librarians in LAUSD.

I love computers. But first things first. (OK, how about half that inbooks. Ok, how about 1/4?)

Stephen Krashen
Professor of Education
University of Southern California

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