The Senate made great strides this week to ensure needed reform to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). After much debate and across the aisle discussion, yesterday the Senate overwhelmingly passed S. 1177, the Every Child Achieves Act, by a vote of 81-17.
As we discussed in a previous post, the inclusion in the bill of the bi-partisan Reed-Cochran amendment, makes S. 1177 a monumental step forward for schools, their libraries and the millions of students they serve. Most fundamentally and importantly, the amendment (approved 98-0) makes explicit that ESEA funds may be used to support school libraries and “effective school library programs” in multiple ways.
As detailed in ALA’s recent press statement, “The Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 contains several provisions in support of libraries, including state and local planning requirements related to developing effective school library programs and digital literacy skills; professional development activities for school librarians; partnership opportunities for libraries; and competitive grants for developing and enhancing effective school library programs.”
Now that both the House (H.R. 5) and the Senate have completed their bills, the next step will be the appointment of members from both chambers to a conference committee to reconcile differences between the two pieces of legislation. That new bill then must be approved again by both the House and Senate.
Although we do not anticipate this happening before the fall, please do stay tuned and watch for legislative alerts! Your voices will be needed at that time to remind your Members of Congress about the importance of school libraries and how essential it is that the provisions supporting school libraries remain in the final bill.