School Libraries and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) why YOU should care and what YOU can do!The Association of Library Trustees, Advocates, Friends and Foundations (ALTAFF) and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), along with the American Library Association’s Office for Library Advocacy and the Washington Office, is asking that every single person in the country who cares about libraries contact their U.S. Senators in Washington at 202-224-3121 or at their local offices in your state about the importance of including school libraries in the reauthorization of ESEA. Please let us know when you’ve made your call by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background: ESEA reauthorization, currently known as No Child Left Behind (NCLB), will determine federal education policy for the coming decade. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee marked-up (voted out of committee) ESEA on October 20, 2011 without including school libraries! While no date has yet been set for a Senate vote, the American Library Association believes that it may come up after January 23, 2012.
What It Means for School Libraries: Ensuring that school libraries are included in ESEA reauthorization means that federal funding for schools would also include school libraries. But, more importantly, having school libraries included in ESEA is a strong statement that school library programs are considered an important part of the learning environment. This will make it harder for local decision makers to de-professionalize or cut school library services.
Why YOU Should Care: As library supporters, it probably goes without saying that you value libraries at all levels. But if you are not directly associated with a school library, it may well be that you really haven’t thought much about them and their contribution to every school, community, and even your own library! Because of the pending vote on ESEA – which does not now include school libraries – it’s time for you to focus your library love on school libraries.
Studies have shown categorically that children who go to school without libraries and, importantly, school librarians, fare worse in academic achievement than those who have them. Professionally staffed school libraries are a very small investment to raise academic achievement. And we all know that kids who read succeed!
We all pay the price of the academic failure of our youngsters. Crime rates, unemployment, social service costs, prison stays all go up when kids don’t succeed in school. We pay dearly for that. Not only are taxes higher as a result, but human potential is lost.
When school libraries are shut down or certified librarians are eliminated, public libraries and academic libraries also pay a price. Children without access to instruction by school librarians will miss out on learning how to find, identify and use information appropriately. Public libraries, community college libraries, and even four year colleges and universities see an immediate influx of new users (school children) when area school libraries are closed down.
This means more materials and staffing are needed for public libraries (whose budgets are also being challenged across the country) and they often lack the curriculum-related materials the students need. In addition, one of the greatest effects on the public library from underfunded school libraries is the demand from school librarians themselves and classroom teachers for materials to use in the classroom.
When one type of library is threatened, all libraries are threatened.
What You Can Do: It is imperative that every library supporter in the country call or email both of their Senators now! Let them know that ESEA must include a specific authorization for an effective school library program. Senators can do this by telling both Senator Tom Harkin and Senator Mike Enzi that they support including an effective school library program in ESEA.
In addition, we ask that you spread the word. Ask your spouse, your friends, and your acquaintances to act now. Facebook, twitter, and email about this. Let’s start a school library movement! Your voice counts – please use it on behalf of professionally staffed school libraries.
ESEA Talking Points
- Since 1965, more than 60 education and library studies have produced clear evidence that school library media programs staffed by qualified school librarians have a positive impact on student academic achievement.
- Spending for school library programs is the single most important variable related to better student achievement.
- At the elementary level, four out of five schools (over 80%) with full-time librarians had more students who earned proficient or above proficient test scores on the CAT5 tests for reading, language arts, and mathematics. In schools with no librarian at all, only about half had more high-achievement students.
- At the secondary level, nine out of ten schools (over 90%) with full-time librarians had more students who earned proficient or above proficient test scores on the CAT5 tests for reading, language arts, and mathematics. In schools with no librarian at all, only about half had more high-achievement students.
- Based on analysis from its first year of funding, 95% of local education agencies that received funding from the Improving Literacy Through School Libraries program have reported increases in their reading scores. In its second year of funding, grantees reported access during non-school hours increased in just one year from 30% in 2005 to 72% in 2006.
- This is the information age. Our leaders are starting to understand it’s not enough for kids to know how to read – they must also be information literate.
- Family literacy activities are supported by 42% of public school libraries strengthening the entire network of support for student learning and achievement.
- Students visit school libraries almost 1.5 billion times during the school year – about one and a half times the number of visits to state and national parks.
- Funding for school libraries comprises a very small portion of a school library’s budget but studies show that the return on this investment in terms of student achievement is high.