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DOE confirms half of IAL funds reserved for school libraries

IAL Grant Applications due by May 9

The Department of Education today issued a notice in the Federal Register clarifying that 50 percent of all Innovative Approaches to Literacy grant funds, more than $13 million, are reserved for use by school libraries. In it, the Department stated categorically that last year’s Consolidated Appropriations Act committee report directed DOE to “ensure that no less than 50 percent of IAL funds go to applications from LEAs (on behalf of school libraries)…”

A student at the ‘Iolani School in Hawaii
A student at the ‘Iolani School in Hawaii

Today’s notice follows up its earlier release of April 7. As noted previously in District Dispatch, all eligible applicants seeking a grant have until May 9, 2016 to submit their proposal. DOE is expected to announce its grant awards in July.

To be eligible, a school library must be considered a “high-need” Local Education Agency (LEA), meaning that at least 25 percent of its students aged 5 – 17 are from families with incomes below the poverty line (or are similarly defined by a State educational agency). A grant application must include: a program description of proposed literacy and book distribution activities; grade levels to be served or the ages of the target audience; and a description of how the program is supported by strong theory. Additional information, like timelines and results measurement methods, is also required. DOE also will consider programs that seek to integrate the use of technology tools, such as e-readers, into addressing literacy needs.

According to DOE, priority consideration for IAL funding is given to programs that include book distribution and childhood literacy development activities, and whose success can be demonstrated. Additional “points” in assessing competing grant proposals may be awarded to an application that meets additional program objectives. As detailed in the DOE’s Notice, there are many such additional goals, including distributing books to children who may lack age-appropriate books at home to read with their families.

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Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is the deputy director of government relations at the American Library Association’s Washington Office. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Before coming to the ALA in 2014, Kevin was the vice president of government affairs for the American Hotel and Lodging Association for 20 years.


  1. Joy Millam Joy Millam

    My frustration is that the requirement of the LEA to have 25% low income families. My school qualifiest, but my school District does not qualify!
    When will government change the definition of the LEA to individual schools? Funds would then get to where it is needed most in diverse school districts.

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