Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutionsby Senator Jack Reed
Posted on 2015-01-29
REED (for himself, Mr. Cochran, and Mr. Whitehouse):
S. 312. A bill to amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of
1965 regarding school libraries, and for other purposes; to the
Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
Mr. REED. Mr. President, today I join with my colleagues Senators Cochran and Whitehouse in introducing the Strengthening Kids' Interest in Learning and Libraries, SKILLS, Act.
Fifty years ago, when President Johnson urged Congress to enact what would become the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, he specifically called for an investment in school libraries, decrying that school libraries were ``limping along.'' Results from a recent National Center for Education Statistics survey show that there are still gaps in access to school libraries. Approximately 8,800 schools did not report having a library media center, and only about \2/3\ of the traditional public schools that did have libraries reported having a full-time, certified librarian. One in five traditional public schools reported having no paid, State certified library staff at all.
Effective school library programs are essential supports for educational success. Multiple education and library studies have produced clear evidence that school libraries staffed by qualified librarians have a positive impact on student academic achievement. Knowing how to find and use information are essential skills for college, careers, and life in general. A good school library, staffed by a trained school librarian, is where students develop and hone these skills.
Our bipartisan legislation would reauthorize and strengthen the Improving Literacy through School Libraries program of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the only federal initiative explicitly dedicated to supporting and enhancing our nation's school libraries. The key improvements to the program include ensuring that elementary, middle, and high school students are served; expanding professional development to include digital literacy instruction and reading and writing instruction across all grade levels; focusing on coordination and shared planning time between teachers and librarians; and ensuring that books and materials are appropriate for and gain the interest of students with special learning needs, including English learners.
The SKILLS Act would also strengthen Title I by requiring State and school district plans to address the development of effective school library programs to help students gain digital literacy skills, master the knowledge and skills in the challenging academic content standards adopted by the State, and graduate from high school ready for college and careers. Additionally, the legislation would broaden the focus of training, professional development, and recruitment activities under Title II to include school librarians.
Absent a clear Federal investment, the libraries in many of our high poverty schools will languish with outdated materials and technology or cease to exist at all, and in turn, students will be cut off from a vital information hub that connects them to the tools they need to develop critical thinking and research skills necessary for success. This is a true equity issue, which is why I will continue to fight to sustain our Federal investment in this area and why renewing and strengthening the school library program is of critical importance.
I urge our colleagues to join us in cosponsoring the bipartisan Strengthening Kids' Interest in Learning and Libraries Act, and to work together to ensure that it becomes a part of the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
______ By Ms. MIKULSKI (for herself and Mr. Cardin): S. 318. A bill to prioritize funding for the National Institutes of Health to discover treatments and cures, to maintain global leadership in medical innovation, and to restore the purchasing power the NIH had after the historic doubling campaign that ended in fiscal year 2003; to the Committee on the Budget.