Energized by AASL’s ESSA advocacy efforts and the AASL ESSA workshop presented last fall by Katie Williams, our Region 7 Director, the California School Library Association (CSLA) established an ESSA Task Force. Advocacy for school library funding is especially challenging in California, due in good part to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) law passed in 2013. This law places virtually all state and federal education money under the authority of each school district. Each district must write and get state approval for a Local Control Accountability Plan, but the district makes its own decisions as to how to allocate funds. That means that most advocacy for funding must be done district by district.
Despite that challenge, we at CSLA wanted to do whatever we could to leverage our state ESSA plan in support of school libraries. We also saw that the AASL recommendations that Katie shared could be applied to advocacy for school library support at any level and from any potential funding source. With that in mind, our task force began brainstorming how we could train our members to be better advocates and develop a group of supporters from our stakeholders. Inspired in part by New Jersey’s unlockstudentpotential.org site, we launched a new campaign and website, Standup4students.org.
Our effort has three main components:
- A campaign website with information about the value of school libraries, current issues, and legislation related to school libraries in California and the importance of advocacy. One page, for example, has a list of questions for stakeholders to answer to assess whether their district has an effective school library program. (Sadly, for most California public schools, their conclusion will be “no.”) Another page features short testimonial videos featuring students, teachers, and others about the value of school libraries. We are trying to encourage our members to create more such videos, which we upload to the CSLA YouTube channel, then include in a playlist on the Standup4students.org site. We chose to create a site separate from our main CSLA.net association site to keep the entire focus on advocacy with stakeholders as the key audience.
- A pledge form asking stakeholders and organizations to partner with us and support our advocacy efforts. Once people sign the pledge, they receive an immediate e-mail response with suggestions of what they can read and do to advocate. We also have links to create automatic, editable Twitter tweets and Facebook postings encouraging others to participate.
- A plan to build a group of supporters from the pledge-signers and keep them informed on a regular basis of any specific advocacy action opportunities, such as commenting on the current draft of the state ESSA plan.
Members of our task force include Jane Lofton, a CSLA Past President; Lisa Bishop, a CSLA Northern Region Past President; Sue Heraper, CSLA Immediate Past President; and Katie Williams, a CSLA Northern Region Past President and AASL Region 7 Director.
We invite you to visit the site and give us input for improvement and other material we should include. You are also welcome to replicate our efforts in your own states.