160 new school librarians

The Canadian Press  February 15, 2008 at 5:31 AM EST

The province is kicking in $40-million over four years so elementary schools across Ontario can hire 160 new librarians, Premier Dalton McGuinty announced yesterday.   Mr. McGuinty said it's important to make sure students develop solid reading skills early on so they can reach their full potential.

"It's one more thing that we're doing along the way to improve the quality of learning for Ontario children," he said before a group of young students at a Mississauga school.  "There's simply no denying it and we can't escape this fact: If they do well, then we do well. It's a matter of enlightened self-interest at the end of the day."

The New Democrats applauded the investment, citing an April, 2006, study by the Ontario Library Association that found having professionally staffed school libraries improves student achievement.

But they were only cautiously optimistic.  After recent reports that funds earmarked for English as a second language were actually being diverted to other school needs, NDP critic Andrea Horwath suggested there's no guarantee the same won't happen in the case of library staff funding.

"I'm not blaming the boards," she said.   "The funding formula has been a mess for a long time and the government really hasn't taken on a complete overhaul of the funding formula.

"As a result, they rob from Peter to pay Paul, and that might be exactly the same scenario we see from this new announcement."