A coalition of more than 20 education businesses, associations and media groups―including Scholastic Inc., EBSCO Information Services and the Association of American Publishers―called (pdf) on the U.S. Congress to support dedicated school library funding in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which provides federal funding for national K-12 education programs.
The coalition specifically asks Congress to incorporate the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLS) Act in ESEA reauthorization, which would expand federal investment in school libraries in order to offer students the tools they need to develop critical thinking, digital, and research skills. Coalition leaders sent the joint letter to U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Chairman Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and HELP Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). Coalition members include Baker & Taylor, OverDrive, Booklist Publications, Bound to Stay Bound Books, DEMCO Inc. and the Junior Library Guild, among others.
“For our society and our economy to succeed, schools must serve as equalizers that provide all students with access to the resources and instruction they need to thrive academically and to become productive and engaged citizens,” coalition members wrote in a letter sent (pdf) to Congress. “That goal cannot be met without strong, professionally staffed school libraries. In too many schools across the nation, however, school library budgets and school librarian positions are being cut. Including SKILLS in ESEA will meaningfully contribute to reversing that cripplingly counterproductive trend.”
Recent data available from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveals that approximately 8,830 public schools across the nation do not have a school library and, among those that do, nearly 17,000 additional schools do not have a full or part-time state-certified school librarian on staff.