On December 10th, 2015, we celebrated the news for the youth of America as the President signed into law the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). It was a long road, with years of advocating on behalf of the rights and the needs of young people, but through a bipartisan effort, the passage of ESSA adds effective school libraries back into the discussion for local and state law, policy, and funding.
We have many to thank for the passage of ESSA. There were more than 10,000 who answered the final call to action through the ALA Take Action for School Libraries communication tool. This was a strong call to action and an even stronger response from library and youth champions all over the country. Support came from many youth advocates and supporters, including the ALA youth divisions ALSC and YALSA.
With the passing of ESSA, our hard work and team team efforts have really just begun.
The first necessary step was to analyze and interpret thousands of pages of ESSA legislation. To fully understand the impact and potential impact for school libraries, the ALA Washington Office has released their summary, Opportunities for School Librarians, which can be found here.
As the government begins unpacking ESSA and preparing for the future, there will be opportunities for comment. The first of these opportunities is related to Title I under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I encouraged input from throughout the country through the AASL Forum (list-serv) post on January 8, 2016. Taking in the recommendations received, as AASL President, I collaborated in a joint response with Sari Feldman, ALA President, and Emily Sheketoff, Executive Director of the Washington Office. The official letter can be found here. Keep your eyes peeled as we will continue to post these opportunities provided by the U.S. Education Department for feedback to the AASL Forum and hope representatives from your state will continue to participate.
Work at the local and state level is just beginning. Your state will need you, library advocates, youth advocates, and lobbyists to speak on behalf of our young people’s rights to an effective school library and the need to include school libraries in language and budgets at the state and local level.
To assist school library efforts, your AASL leadership and the AASL Advocacy and Legislation Committees met at ALA Midwinter this month and are working collaboratively to keep you up-to-date and informed. Over the next few months, a series of informative pieces will be posted on the KQ Blog. Be sure to read through these informative pieces, take action as needed, and pass them on to the appropriate library advocates and leaders in your state for further action.
Through Affiliate Assembly, each affiliate will be invited to send up to two representatives to an ESSA half-day workshop to support work at the state and local level. Registration information and further details will be sent out to your state’s representatives via Affiliate Assembly’s ALA Connect tool.
AASL has developed a landing page for information on ESSA and school libraries. From this page, you can quickly connect to the tag page for all the ESSA updates from the ALA Washington Office, the tag page for all the KQ blog posts related to ESSA, as well as other pertinent information and resources. As new resources and updates become available, they will be linked to AASL’s ESSA landing page.
Staying informed and involved at the local and state level will be critical. Be sure to spread the word amongst your local peers to keep connected by subscribing your email to receive KQ notifications. In this way, you will be the first to know and be able to pass the information on to your local library and education advocates, policymakers, lobbyists, and trustees.