Fernandez unsure of status of Bill 162

by Marissa Eusebio, KUAM News
Monday, February 02, 2004

After dozens of educational leaders and community members testified at the Legislature in support of a measure that builds off of the Organic Act's efforts to ensure that every student is entitled to an adequate education, nearly six months later since the public hearing, it appears that the chairperson for the Committee on Education can't even provide answers as to the whereabouts of Bill 162.

It was last August when Senator Bob Klitzkie introduced Bill 162, the “Every Child is Entitled to an Adequate Education Act”, in response to the inability of the Department of Education to provide for certain fundamental necessities to students, like textbooks and functioning toilets. And as senators are now continuing session talks, it appears that there are concerns from the community about why the bill hasn't made it onto the floor.

According to one section of the bill, libraries and certified librarians would become mandatory at each school. Agana Heights Elementary School librarian Cheryl King says she supports the bill for this very reason. “Right now, approximately one-third of our schools do not have school librarians and without a bill like this to call attention to that fact,” she told KUAM News. “To at least publicize it, to at least focus attention on that problem...we'll be right where we are now.”

King was recently able to purchase $1,300 worth of books through the Literacy for School Library Grant, which makes the latest stories and information about various subjects like simple machines to the wonders of the Pacific Ocean available to students at an arm's reach. And yet without librarians like her, schools are likely to miss out on opportunities to increase their resources since no one is there to apply for these types of grants.

Echoing similar sentiments was Guam Library Association president Suzanne Bell, who commented on the status of the bill saying not only is she curious as to the bill's whereabouts. “I'm also really disappointed because I think it's something that the island really needs...we're all concerned about the importance of education and of course as a librarian you know where my passion is,” she described.

While librarians like King and Bell have made it their priority to support Bill 162, they question the efforts of the chairperson for the Committee on Education as to whether she's made it her priority, as well. Said Bell, “In fact, I was so curious about it I did email Senator [Carmen] Fernandez last week and asked her certainly as the education senator (I'm just assuming she's just as interested in the quality of education as everyone else) that she would please look into it and see why this hasn't moved forward.”

According to Senator Fernandez, since August - nearly six months ago - only recently has she written up a Committee report on the bill, which is currently being circulated among members of the Education Committee. She told KUAM News, “I know for sure that the Committee members on the Education and Housing committee do see this as a very complex bill and it is quite lengthy and they do want to take the time to ensure that their review is very meticulous.”

Since the report was circulated a week ago, KUAM asked whether she received any feedback from her colleagues since then. The freshman senator replied, “Actually, I'm not certain I'll have to ask staff on that but as of, and normally the process when you circulate a document it goes from senator to senator, so I'm not sure where it is right not I'll, have to check with staff on that.”

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