February 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

U.S. Senate Passes Its Version of ESEA, Emphasizing School Libraries

The U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act on Thursday, July 16—requiring states to include at least one measure of student supports such as school librarians, school counselors and art and music classes in their accountability systems.

School librarians and school libraries are named throughout the bill, part of a bipartisan push by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) to encourage states to use “effective school library programs,” as mentioned in the bill, to boost student academic achievement.

“This bill doesn’t mandate expenditure on school librarians but it makes it extremely clear, in contrast to the way it’s been,” says Adam Eisgrau, managing director of the American Library Association Office of Government Relations in Washington, D.C. “It expressly authorizes expenditures on school library money.”

Passing with sweeping support from both parties in a vote of 81 to 17 Thursday afternoon, the Senate’s bill, a version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), now heads to House lawmakers toward a merger with its own Student Success Act, before being presented to President Obama.

The House’s version does not mention school libraries or school librarians. But Eisgrau says that the Senate’s passing of its bill with such wide support empowers its members to keep that provision in the final version.

“That vote was not just a feel good vote,” he says. “It was strategic and extremely important.”

Signed into law by President Johnson in 1965, ESEA was last reauthorized by President George W. Bush with No Child Left Behind, signed into law in 2002. That bill expired in 2007, with lawmakers looking to redraft the bill this year.

“In too many communities, libraries are neglected or considered an afterthought amidst the many other worthy education priorities competing for funding,” said Reed in a statement last week after passage of his amendment to the Senate bill. “But we know that school library programs can have a positive impact on student achievement, and we must invest in them.”

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  1. Thanks to both Senators for pushing this through. Hopefully your counterparts will push it through the House with some enthusiasm! After being a school librarian for over 30 years and being replaced by an aide. I am happy to know that my granddaughter may have a real library and librarian when she starts school.

  2. heather blevins says:

    I agree with the push to encourage a certified librarian in our schools. My current system thought it would be a great money saving plan to assign only one librarian to every two schools. I support legislature to help poorly funded systems to find federal money to put one librarian in each school.