Significant victory for libraries as President signs ESSA into law

President Obama signs education bill that ALA advocated for into law.

President Obama signs education bill that ALA advocated for into law.

A major reauthorization bill overhauling K-12 education policy–the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)–has been signed into law by President Obama and in a significant victory for ALA’s decade of advocacy efforts, it includes provisions favorable to libraries.

ALA President Sari Feldman praised all ALA members, crediting their unified, collective, high-impact messages to their Members of Congress for the favorable provisions for school libraries specifically included in the reauthorization legislation.

AASL President Leslie Preddy said, “For school-age students, ESSA represents an historic new chapter in federal support of education, one that will ensure effective school library programs are there to help them learn how to use new technology tools, develop critical thinking, and the reading and research skills essential to achievement in science, math and all other ‘STEM’ fields.”

“School libraries and school librarians are really recognized as critical education partners in this bill,” Feldman said in an Education Week article posted this week.

As noted in a previous District Dispatch article, the new bill authorizes the Innovative Approaches to Literacy program that allows the education secretary to “award grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements, on a competitive basis” to promote literacy programs in low-income areas, including “developing and enhancing effective school library programs.”

Those funds can go toward library resources and providing professional development for school librarians. States and districts can also use Title II funds for “supporting the instructional services provided by effective school library programs.”And the bill encourages local education agencies to assist schools in developing effective school library programs, in part to help students gain digital skills.

As Feldman notes in the Education Week article, “It’s very clear that as libraries are called out by the federal government in this legislation and there’s opportunity to apply for funding around effective school libraries, it will also strengthen state mandates around libraries.”

ESSA replaces No Child Left Behind, the 2002 signature domestic initiative of President George W. Bush that heightened Washington’s role in local classrooms. It sends significant power back to states and local districts while maintaining limited federal oversight of education.

This will move the focus for library advocacy efforts to the local level in coming days, but for now, ALA members deserve to savor the achievement wrought by their long-term efforts.

About Nancy Gravatt

Nancy is the Press Officer for the American Library Association's Washington Office. In her travels (both real & virtual), she has found that libraries are treasures that unlock our understanding of other cultures--their art, languages, beliefs and history--revealing the common bonds in our human experience.


  1. Dennis Smiddle Thank you Mr. President Obama, Now, can schools spend more time connecting children with Nature and healthier lifestyles by spending more time outdoors and learning about healthier foods in accordance with new initiatives that support more beneficial stewardship? The following is a great recommendation: The Natural Learning Initiative – recently published National Guidelines entitled, Nature Play & Learning Places and this important work can help provide more beneficial Health, Environment, Learning and Play stewardship. FANS of Play supports and shares this important initiative and advocacy. –

  2. Anything done for libraries will repay itself in so many ways. Certainly for autodidacts like myself who did very well in Regents exams and the SAT which got me into Columbia University from which I graduated and went on to Graduate school at Teachers College and became a teacher in high school and college. I completed ninth grade.

  3. Meanwhile, in Chicago:

    “Hundreds From DuSable Campus Stage Sit-In To Keep Library Open”

  4. I know a Cleveland, Ohio, elementary school which had had a fine library in the 1960s. In the last 17 years they had one certified teacher and one certified librarian for maybe a total of four years. The state of Ohio has about 250 pages of guidelines for school libraries, but no actual legal requirements . There ought to be lessons for every class, every day. This was the only library the students had ready access to. Library skills are very important. Let’s go forward with trained librarians who do not show videos but cultivate a love of learning.

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