Last week, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) joined Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Thad Cochran (R-MS) in introducing the SKILLS Act (S.312). Key improvements to the program include expanding professional development to include digital literacy, reading and writing instruction across all grade levels; focusing on coordination and shared planning time between teachers and librarians; and ensuring that books and materials are appropriate students with special learning needs, including English learners.
The legislation would expand federal investment in school libraries so they can continue to offer students the tools they need to develop the critical thinking, digital, and research skills necessary for success in the twenty-first century.
“Effective school library programs are essential for educational success. Multiple education and library studies have produced clear evidence that school libraries staffed by qualified librarians have a positive impact on student academic achievement. Knowing how to find and use information are essential skills for college, careers, and life in general,” said Senator Reed, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in a statement.
“Absent a clear federal investment, the libraries in some school districts will languish with outdated materials and technology, or cease to exist at all, cutting students off from a vital information hub that connects them to the tools they need to develop the critical thinking and research skills necessary for success,” Senator Reed continued. “This is a true equity issue, which is why I will continue to fight to sustain our federal investment in this area and why renewing and strengthening the school library program is so critical.”
“School libraries should be an integral part of our educational system,” said Chairman Cochran. “This bipartisan legislation is intended to ensure that school libraries are better equipped to offer students the reading, research and digital skills resources they need to succeed.”
The bipartisan SKILLS Act would further amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act by requiring state and school districts plan to address the development of effective school library programs to help students gain digital literacy skills, master the knowledge and skills in the challenging academic content standards adopted by the state, and graduate from high school ready for college and careers. Additionally, the legislation would broaden the focus of training, professional development and recruitment activities to include school librarians.
The American Library Association (ALA) last week sent comments (pdf) to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander and member Sen. Patty Murray on the discussion draft to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.