With the bi-partisan passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) signed by President Obama on December 10, school librarians started 2016 with the knowledge that school library programs were once again in the language of an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
It was a long road to get here. After many years of hard work and many people acting as agents of change and advocating for students and their right to a school library program, there is success. I know you will be excited to know over 10,000 individuals utilized the ALA Legislative Action Center to make their voices heard on the need to support school libraries in ESSA. Among the 10,000 supporters who used the Action Center during the legislative process were library and youth advocates who support youth’s rights to an “effective school library program.”
ESSA includes provisions that enable federal funding to be used for effective school libraries. As your representative and AASL President, I’m proud of our association and members who have worked tirelessly toward the inclusion of language for school libraries that will benefit our young people.
Now is our time. We must move forward in a period of sustained advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels in order to implement ESSA at the local level with effective school library programs.
AASL and the ALA Washington Office are closely monitoring the rulemaking process at the federal level. Throughout the feedback process we will be there. We provided recommendations on Title I and will continue to provide comments during proposed regulations. AASL is strategically proactive–ready to comment as rulemaking proceeds and to engage stakeholders.
Now is the time to gather and give examples that reinforce why the school librarian is the key to an effective school library program. AASL members can point to a law that includes “school library” in its provisions and encourage decision makers to ensure this will happen. A great resource is AASL’s new Toolkit for Promoting School Library Programs. Do not remain silent. Utilize the enthusiasm your students, staff, and community have for your school library program to increase your visibility. Show your administrators, school board, other educators, and parents what an effective school library program – with up-to-date resources and a certified school librarian – can do.
AASL is strategically developing materials and promoting opportunities for school libraries in ESSA. As the organization representing thousands of school librarians, AASL is focusing its efforts on supporting school libraries and library-friendly state legislation and regulations and helping school librarians and youth and library advocates at the local level.
What can you do?
- Subscribe to email updates for the KQ website. This will be our primary ESSA communication tool. To subscribe via email, scroll to the bottom right of the page, enter your email address, and click subscribe. The “ESSA Updates” blog posts are written by members of the AASL Advocacy and Legislation Committees, the AASL President and Executive Director, and the ALA Washington Office. Topics already covered on the site: using local data to advocate for school library programs, meeting the ”effective school library program” mandate in the bill, and determining what questions Title I schools should ask about ESSA. More guidance regarding ESSA will continue to be posted throughout the ESSA process.
- Bookmark the AASL ESSA landing page. Links to important ESSA information and documents can be found here. Additions to the landing page will include position statements, information on the 2017 release of learning and professional standards, toolkits, and other resources already available for describing school library programs.
- Utilize the resources AASL has provided for you. Request your free School Library Advocacy Packs (pay only shipping). Take the time to comprehensively review and utilize the Public Relations Toolkit. From the Learning Standards and Guidelines page, scroll down to the Program Guidelines section to evaluate your program, learn your program’s strengths and weaknesses, and familiarize yourself with what makes an effective school library program.
- Through the AASL Affiliate Assembly, states will be invited to send a representative to an ESSA session at ALA Annual Conference. The session will include working through strategies for utilizing your local association, state planning, and developing comprehensive local and state awareness.
Success depends upon strong communication at the local, state, and national level over the next four years as ESSA goes through rulemaking at federal and state levels. Begin incorporating into your local, regional, and state plans ways to articulate an effective school library program for your community. AASL is proud to represent you at the national level and are here to support you in your efforts.
2015-2016 AASL President