Congress is poised to act definitively on the federal education bill, ESEA, very soon. This is the first new education bill in 14 years! The last time Congress passed an education bill, school libraries were left out. This resulted in widespread cuts for school libraries, and nearly an entire generation of our youth have suffered from a lack of access to experts and materials they need to succeed in the 21st century workforce. So, at this moment, we are at a very critical juncture, and it’s up to all of us to speak up for youth now!
Congress’s goal is to have a draft bill by Nov. 30th, but it could be out as early as next week. Once the bill is out, Congress will move very quickly, and will most likely vote on a final bill by mid-December. There are two steps that will happen in the next couple of weeks: first the House votes on the bill, and then the Senate. These next few weeks are a window of opportunity for us and our advocates to help youth through support of school libraries.
As soon as the ALA Washington Office sees the bill, they will read it to see if the recommended language on school libraries has been included, and based on that information, decide on an advocacy strategy. Then, they will post an alert to the Legislative Action Center with instructions and resources for how you and your library advocates can help (including talking points to use to call, Tweet and email Congressional offices). We need to make sure that every Congress member (first the House reps, then Senators) hear from library staff and advocates (including teens!) before they vote on the final bill, and that vote can be as early as Dec. 2nd.
How You Can Help:
- take a few minutes refresh your knowledge of the issue by checking out this wiki page
- alert library advocates in your network/community that they’re going to be called on to contact Congress sometime between next week and mid-Dec.
- Gather together stories, images and data you can use when you and your supporters contact Congress
We need all types of libraries and supporters from all parts of the community to speak up on behalf of young peoples’ need for school libraries in order to persuade them to include school libraries in this bill. YALSA will provide updates on this issue, and you can keep up to date on your own by following #ESEA and #SchoolLibraries on Twitter as well as the ALA Washington Office blog, District Dispatch. Thank you in advance for taking action to support youth and libraries!
-Candice Mack, YALSA President