U.S. Senate Approves Amendment to Support School Libraries With 98-0 Vote
UPDATE July 9 2015 At the bottom of this post we’ve added a transcript of Senator Jack Reed’s (D-RI) and Senator Thad Cochran’s (R-MS) statements (via Congressional Record) on the Senate floor encouraging a yes vote on the amendment. The statements were made immediately preceding the vote.
From The Washington Post:
Senators began work in earnest Wednesday on a bipartisan bill to replace No Child Left Behind by congratulating themselves on finally taking up legislation that is eight years overdue, [our emphasis] and then unanimously passing an amendment to support school libraries.
By a 98 to 0 vote, senators approved an amendment sponsored by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) that would allow states and school districts to use federal funds to develop school libraries and hire trained librarians.
“Knowing how to find and use information are essential skills for college, careers and life in general,” Reed said. “A good school library, staffed by a trained school librarian, is where students develop and hone these skills. In too many communities, libraries are neglected or considered an afterthought amidst the many other worthy education priorities competing for funding. But we know that school library programs can have a positive impact on student achievement.”
More From the American Library Association
Prior to the vote, both Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) spoke eloquently in support of this amendment and the importance of school libraries. Their work has been invaluable in garnering attention for the important role that an effective school library program plays in a student’s education.
BUT . . . while this is an important “win”, our work is not quite finished. Stay tuned as the bill moves forward! Next steps for this bill will be: continued discussion on the Senate floor, a Senate vote, and then — once the House has finished work on its own H.R. 5 — the House and Senate will appoint a conference committee to resolve any disagreements and arrive at a bill that both can agree on.
The amendment can be reviewed here (via Congress.gov).
Scroll to “Amendment No. 2085 to Amendment No. 2089”
Full Text of Sen. Reed and Cochran’s Statement About the Amendement
Source: Congressional Record (Page S-4814-S-4816; July 8, 2015)
Sen. Reed’s Statement
Mr. REED. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to urge all of my colleagues to support the Reed-Cochran amendment to encourage States and school districts to integrate school library programs into their plans for improving student academic achievement.
I would first like to thank Senator Cochran for his longstanding partnership in supporting school libraries. He has been a steadfast champion for ensuring that students have access to these vital
Fifty years ago, when President Lyndon Johnson urged Congress to enact what would become the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, he specifically called for an investment in school libraries, saying that school libraries were simply “limping along” and insisting that we do better. Sadly, this “limping along” is still true for too many communities in our United States.
This spring, the Washington Post ran articles on the inequitable access to school libraries in public schools in our Nation’s Capital, reporting that one school library in a wealthy part of town had 28,000 books in a library that spanned two floors, while 12 miles away, in a school in a poorer part of the town, the school library had only 300 books along two walls. If that is not a stark example of one of the things we hope we can fix through this act, I cannot think of anything more direct and to the point.
Recently, noted author James Patterson made a pledge to help school libraries. More than 28,000 applications came in One librarian reported that school libraries in her State had not received any funding for three-quarters of a decade and that their collections and equipment were out of date and in disrepair. I suspect she is not alone in making such a report. We see this neglect despite the fact that evidence shows that effective school library programs, staffed by a certified school librarian, have a positive impact on student achievement.
While I would like to see a much more robust school library-focused initiative included in the reauthorization, along the lines of the bill I introduced with Senator Cochran, I am very pleased that the underlying bill includes an authorization for competitive grants to help high-need school districts strengthen and enhance effective library programs. However, we need to do more to encourage States and school districts to integrate school library programs into their overall instructional programs.
Effective school library programs are essential supports to educational success. If you understand how to use the library in school, that is not a skill that goes away; in fact, it will be a skill for the rest of your life that you will use time and time again, not only for your pleasure but for your progress and the progress of your family. Knowing how to find and use information is an essential skill for college, careers, and life in general. A good school library, staffed by a trained school librarian, is where students develop and hone those skills.
The Reed-Cochran amendment will encourage States and school districts to ensure that students have access to effective school library programs.
Once again, I thank my colleague, Senator Cochran.
I urge my colleagues to vote yes on this bipartisan amendment.
I yield the floor.
Sen. Cochran’s Statement
Mr. COCHRAN. Mr. President, I am coming at this issue from a unique perspective. Both of my parents were schoolteachers. As I was growing up in Mississippi, my father was county superintendent of education of the largest public school system in Mississippi for several years. My mother was a mathematics educator, teacher. They had both earned graduate degrees as well as undergraduate degrees from colleges and universities in our State of Mississippi. My brother and I had the good fortune of growing up in this environment of learning and reading.
So I have to confess I am biased in support of legislation that helps to strengthen the capability of our Nation’s teachers and school administrators in providing opportunities for not only reading but complex learning at early ages, which would have been surprising to those of that generation to look around and observe the great strides we are making in education throughout America.
Growing up with this perspective and my appreciation of the importance of good teachers in our schools makes me understand perhaps more than most the importance that education serves in the lives of students, their teachers, and their communities where they grow up.
When I was a student, I went to the library to check out a book. Now, there are all kinds of ways to get in touch with the written words. Today, our school librarians are more often specialists with education and specific training that help students learn how to access educational material in every manner in which education is available in an increasingly digital society. Children who know how to read and are comfortable using information technology are more likely to grow up with a capacity to learn throughout their lifetimes.
The amendment I have offered with my good friend, the senior Senator from Rhode Island, seeks to help equip school librarians to do an even better job. Our amendment would allow schools throughout the country to use Federal funds in the way they see fit to strengthen their libraries. My hope is that the use of these additional funds will improve education and literacy among children throughout America.
It is my understanding the bill managers support this amendment. I appreciate very much not only the good assistance and friendship of Senator Reed but his help specifically with this legislation.
About Gary Price
Gary Price (email@example.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. He earned his MLIS degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. Price has won several awards including the SLA Innovations in Technology Award and Alumnus of the Year from the Wayne St. University Library and Information Science Program. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com.