U.S. House Drafts SKILLS Act to Support School Librarians
Posted by Editor on January 25, 2012
By Lauren Barack, January 20, 2012 in School Library Journal
Three House lawmakers introduced legislation this week that could strengthen and ensure school librarians’ continued role as educators in the nation’s K-12 schools.
Drafted by U.S. Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ.) (left), Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), The Strengthening Kids’ Interest in Learning and Libraries (SKILLS) Act, is a companion bill to a measure introduced in July in the Senate. Under both bills, school librarians would be assured a continuing role in schools as part of the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
Several key provisions in the SKILLS Act strive to better define and strengthen the future role and federal funding for librarians who work in schools. One provision states that an “effective school library program,” is a program that’s staffed by a state-certified school librarian. The act also strengthens school librarians’ right to gain access to professional development funds under ESEA. In addition, the measure sets aside competitive grants to underserved schools and districts so they can work to develop effective library programs.
“This is what we’re working for,” says Jeffrey Kratz, assistant director of the Washington, D.C. office of the American Library Association (ALA).
If the language fails to be inserted into the ESEA reauthorization bill, school libraries could miss out on millions of federal funds. In the Senate, Jack Reed (D-RI) and Thad Cochran (R)-authored that body’s companion measure to the SKILLS Act last year. Reed in particular has been a vocal supporter of school libraries, helping to pass an appropriations bill in December that included $28.6 million in federal funding for school libraries and literacy programs starting in fiscal year 2012.
“It’s very important that this gets into ESEA’s reauthorization,” says ALA’s Kratz. “School librarians need to be to be in there. They teach a unique set of 21st Century digital literacy skills that students do not learn in the traditional classroom.”