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School Libraries : Why we’re excited about the new ESSA legislation!

Thomson Elementary school 4th and 5th grade students discuss with ALA President Sari Feldman how library digital learning is enhancing their learning experience, while Librarian Jeminnia States listens.
Thomson Elementary school 4th and 5th grade students discuss with ALA President Sari Feldman how library digital learning is enhancing their learning experience, while Librarian Jeminnia States listens.

As you may have read here earlier this week, we finally have language for the bill that will reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) that was last updated in 2001 with the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). This reauthorization is long overdue and we are enthusiastic with what it contains! One of the many negatives found within NCLB, was the lack of language that supported school libraries. School libraries were not expressly left out of the bill, but due to the fact that they were not mentioned, it made them a convenient budget line to cut during the recession. We learned the hard way that if school libraries were not expressly written in, they were much too easily left out.

It’s for this reason that we are so excited about the language found in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The last few days have seen collaboration across all divisions of ALA as members share the good news and call on their Representatives.

Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director of the Washington Office, shared her enthusiasm via a letter of appreciation to the chair and ranking member of the House and Senate education committees. With all of the issues that Chairman Kline, Ranking Member Scott, Chairman Alexander and Ranking Member Murray had to contend with during this process, it’s important that they not only hear, “job well done”, but continue to hear from the library community on the important role a school library plays in the life of a student.

While it is true that we did not get everything we hoped for, school libraries were better represented in ESSA than in any legislation in decades! Key school library provisions found in the bill are:

  • Title II, Part B, Subpart 2, Section 2226 continues activities currently implemented through appropriations legislation and authorizes Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) that would promote literacy programs in low income communities. Funds are authorized for the development and enhancement of effective school library programs, which may include providing professional development for school librarians, books, and up-to-date materials to high need schools.
  • Title I LEA Plan includes a description of how the LEA will assist schools in developing effective school library programs to provide students an opportunity to develop digital literacy skills and improve academic achievement.
  • Authorizes state and local uses of funds under Title II, Part A (Supporting Effective Instruction) for “supporting the instructional services provided by effective school library programs.”
  • Uses of funds under Title II, Part B, Subpart 2 (Literacy Education for All, Results for the Nation) include coordination with, and professional development for school librarians.
  • Eligible entities under Title II, Part B, Subpart 2, Section 2232 (Presidential and Congressional Academies for American History and Civics) include libraries.
  • Authorizes states to use funds to assist LEAs with identifying and addressing technology readiness needs, including Internet connectivity and access to school libraries under Title IV, Part A (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants).

If you have not already reached out to your representative in support of school libraries, please take a moment to do so now! The House will be voting this week and they need to hear from you!

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Jessica McGilvray

Jessica McGilvray is a former member of the Washington Office government relations team.

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  1. […] to learn more about the history of ESEA and ESSA? District Dispatch, the official blog of the ALA Washington Office, has all the […]

  2. Felicia Redinger Felicia Redinger

    I sent a question to J. Rowe of the AFT michigan asking why they didn’t include school libraries in their update of the passing of ESSA and she said that there were too many points to include all of them. So I said it just shows that our union leaders don’t value libraries but I sure am glad that our legislators do.

  3. […] Student Succeeds Act: By now you know this act has replaced No Child Left Behind. It is good news for libraries in that it adds more legitimacy, in the eyes of those making financial decisions, […]

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