Strengthening America's Schools Act Includes Provisions for School Libraries

On Tuesday, June 4, Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (D) introduced the Strengthening America’s Schools Act, a bill that, if passed, would revise legislation set forth in the No Child Left Behind Act. Strengthening America’s Schools makes several provisions for school libraries, including a program that would allot three-year grants to low-income school library programs.

Harkin’s bill also calls for the implementation of the Improving Literacy and College and Career Readiness Through Effective School Library Programs initiative. In so doing, the bill provides a working definition for effective school libraries, which includes stipulations that school libraries are “staffed by a State certified or licensed school librarian; has up-to-date books, materials, equipment, and technology (including broadband); ... and supports the development of digital literacy skills.”

As stated in a press release from the American Library Association, “the bill is the first to recognize the role school library programs play in student learning since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was first enacted in 1965.” A post on District Dispatch notes that this act is in alignment with efforts the ALA Washington Office has made to encourage congressional support for school library programs.

According to the New York Times, Harkin’s bill will face opposition in the coming days, including the introduction of a competing bill by fellow Education Committee member Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN). Next steps include a markup by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee on June 11.