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School libraries awarded IAL grants by Department of Education

School libraries in 26 districts across the country were awarded over $16 million last week in Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL) grants by the Department of Education. The two-year grants target programs designed to improve literacy skills and provide reading materials to students in high-needs schools for grades pre-K through high school. In addition to the 26 school districts receiving IAL grants, three national non-profit organizations also received funding for literacy programs. A full list of all grant recipients is available through the Department of Education. A list of earlier grants is also available through the Department’s website. The next IAL grant cycle will begin in 2018, the DOE also announced.

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

Schools in underserved communities have limited access to school libraries that deliver high-quality targeted literacy programming and adequate books and resources. Children from low-income families thus benefit from IAL grants, which provide age and grade-level appropriate training and reading material. Since 2012, IAL has made 81 grants to support efforts to improve literacy skills, materials, and programming. As required by law, DOE must reserve at least ½ of all IAL funding for school libraries—a mandate reiterated in last year’s Every Student Succeeds Act.

ALA members regularly advocate for Congressional support and funding for IAL during the annual National Library Legislative Day. Members also responded to ALA calls-to-action to urge Congressional support, including securing Members’ signatures on annual “Dear Appropriator” letters. On the strength of that advocacy, Congress provided $27 million in funding for IAL in FY 2016, an increase of $2 million over FY 2015 level.

Prior to recessing for the November election campaign season, however, Congress was only able to finish one of 12 funding bills forcing the passage of a Continuing Resolution to keep the Government open through December 9th. Congress will return after the elections to work on funding bills in a “lame duck” session. While both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees provided level FY 2017 funding for IAL in their bills, ALA will continue to work to ensure funding remains in any final funding package.

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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.

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