Action Alert! Ask Senator Mikulski to Support School Libraries ESEA Amendment

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10/21/2011 Update: ESEA passed out of committee without the school libraries amendment. For details, please see the Legislative Panel blog posting.

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Thank you to everyone who has already contacted Senator Mikulski to ask for her support of school libraries in the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) through the Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLs) Act! Here is another opportunity to contact Senator Mikulski and help school libraries by asking her to vote for an amendment that will be introduced on Wednesday, October 19th. Please read on for more information, including talking points, from the American Library Association (ALA). 

The Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee is scheduled to mark-up (vote on) the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) beginning on Wednesday, October 19.  As of now, Senator Murray (D-WA) has done a good job including libraries into the legislation; however there are still areas where there needs to be more.  There is an amendment that will be introduced during the mark-up by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) that will further address school libraries’ role in education.

Senator Mikulski sits on the Senate HELP committee and will be voting on this amendment when it is introduced.  Please call Senator Mikulski today at 202-224-4654 and ask her to support the Whitehouse/Murray amendment on school libraries.

This legislation, if passed, will impact education policy in this country for years to come, so it is critically important that we make sure libraries are included in this bill.

For more information about why this vote is so critical, please see the District Dispatch posting.

Thanks in advance for any advocacy efforts!

Talking Points:

 What does the Whitehouse/Murray Amendment do?

The amendment will update and reauthorize the school library program as subpart 2 of Title IV, Part A, Improving Literacy Instruction and Student Achievement to:

•    Ensure that elementary, middle, and high school students are served;
•    Expand professional development to include digital literacy instruction and reading and writing instruction across all grade levels;
•    Focus on coordination and shared planning time between teachers and librarians;
•    Award grants for a period of three years, targeted to the highest need schools; and
•    Ensure that books and materials are appropriate for and gain the interest of students with special learning needs, including English learners.

The amendment is based on the bipartisan SKILLS Act introduced by Senators Reed, Cochran, Whitehouse, Murray, and Rockefeller.

Is this a new program?

No.  The amendment updates the existing Improving Literacy through School Libraries Program, the sole federal initiative dedicated to enhancing and improving our nation’s school libraries.

This has been an effective program.

The Department of Education’s January 2009 evaluation of the program found that it had been successful in improving the quality of those school libraries receiving the grants.

The FY 2012 Labor, HHS, and Education Appropriations bill reported out of committee included $30 million for book distribution and school library programs.

Personal stories:

Please also include personal stories about how your school library has made an impact in your community.  These stories are what senators like to hear, and your personal testimony will be the most effective way in convincing them to support school libraries.

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