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Education and School Libraries

Contact: Kevin Maher

Elementary and Secondary Education Act & Libraries

What is Elementary and Secondary Education Act? The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) or what was previously known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB)  provides federal funding for K-12 education programs. The legislation was scheduled to be reauthorized in 2009 but Congress has not yet done so. However, both the Senate and House have been holding hearings and meetings throughout 2010 and 2011 on what should be included in a reauthorized ESEA bill. During this time, the Washington Office has been meeting with key legislators and staff working to get school libraries included into ESEA.

The Improving Literacy and College and Career Readiness Through Effective School Library Program do several things that the ALA Washington Office has been pushing Congress for many years by defining school libraries as:

  1. Staffed by a state certified or licensed school librarian;
  2. Having up-to-date books, materials, equipment, and technology (including broadband);
  3. Including regular collaboration between classroom teachers and school librarians to assist with the development and implementation of curriculum;
  4. Supports the development of digital literacy skills.

ALA applauds the objectives of ESEA, but believes the same standards being applied in our classrooms should be extended to our nation’s school libraries – that every school library should be staffed by a state-certified school library media specialist. Section 1119 of ESEA outlines the minimum qualifications needed by teachers and paraprofessionals who work in any facet of classroom instruction. It requires that states develop plans to achieve the goal that all teachers of core academic subjects be state certified by the end of the 2005-2006 school year.

Congress is set to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) previously known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Please contact your U.S. senators and representatives to share examples and personal stories of how school libraries and school librarians impact the education of children in your community.

When speaking to your senators and representatives, please urge them to:

  1. Include in ESEA reauthorization that all public schools have a school library staffed by at least one state-licensed school librarian. Only 60 percent of public schools in the United States have a school library, and studies show students from schools with a school library staffed by a state-licensed school librarian do better in school and score higher on tests.
  2. Maintain dedicated funding for school libraries. Federal school library funding has undergone major cuts in recent years.  Improving Literacy Through School Libraries has not been funded since FY 2009.  In FY 2012, school libraries received some funding through the Innovative Approaches to Literacy.  To keep school libraries up-to-date, libraries need to be funded on an annual basis.
  3. Allow state and local professional development funds to be used for recruiting and training school librarians.  Currently, school librarians are included as in various professional development programs (such as the Teacher and Principal Training and Recruiting Fund and the Enhancing Education Through Technology Fund) even though they are a critical tool used to improve student academic achievement. ESEA should encourage participation of librarians in such programs.

View all current education and school libraries news

Other ALA Policy Issues:

Digital Literacy
Government Information

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Emily Wagner

Emily Wagner is the assistant director of knowledge management and communications at the American Library Association's Washington Office. She holds a bachelor's degree from Mount Holyoke College and a master's in library and information science from Catholic University.