UPDATE: The full text of the bill is now available here [PDF].
The Strengthening America’s Schools Act, introduced in the Senate on Tuesday by Tom Harkin (D-IA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Jack Reed (D-RI), includes strong provisions for effective school library programs, and is the first piece of legislation to recognize the role school library programs play in student learning since 1965, according to the American Library Association‘s statement this week.
“For too long, research has shown that students have a better chance of succeeding academically when they attend schools with strong library programs,” says Emily Sheketoff, executive director of the ALA’s Washington office, in the statement. “This bill will ensure that students will have access to professionals who can help them make connections between subject areas, retrieve information, and think independently.”
If made law, the bill would reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was first enacted in 1965. The bill also creates specific language for libraries and would implement the “Improving Literacy and College and Career Readiness through Effective School Library Program.” The program defines an effective school library as one that: is staffed by a state-certified or licensed school librarian; has up-to-date books, materials, equipment, and technology (including broadband); includes regular collaboration between classroom teachers and school librarians to assist with the development and implementation of curriculum; and supports the development of digital literacy skills.
In addition, the bill calls for the Department of Education to award three-year grants to low-income school libraries to maintain up-to-date school library collections, staffed by a state-certified school librarian, and for other purposes relating to a school library, ALA says in its statement.
Adds the ALA, “School librarians are literacy champions and primary educators in teaching students digital skills. A recent study found that elementary schools with librarians averaged 68 to 72 percent of students scoring proficient or advanced.”
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee is expected hold a mark-up on this bill on June 11, 2013.