[Libs-Or] ACTION NEEDED NOW: Critical Vote on School Libraries This Week

Diedre Conkling diedre08 at gmail.com
Wed Oct 19 15:03:18 PDT 2011


*Critical Vote on School Libraries This Week
Posted on October 19, 2011

I am writing this message as we look at what, I believe, is the best
opportunity for school libraries to be recognized in Elementary and
Secondary Education Act (ESEA), our nation’s most important federal K-12
education law.  What happens in the next few days in a Senate committee will
determine federal K-12 education programs for the next decade.  If school
libraries are not in the legislation, if we don’t succeed this week, we face
a daunting hurdle to get federal school library programs acknowledged for
many years.   More and more students will not be served; a whole generation
of low-income kids will go through school with inadequate or even no school
library resources.  Unfortunately, I am not exaggerating.

Please bear with me as I explain the political realities of what we are
dealing with on this issue and how what happens this week in a Senate
committee affect what will happen in the coming years.   And, I want to
emphasize to all library supporters – we need  you to be nimble, tough and
strategic as we ask you to take action in several ways as the possibilities
for  getting a school library program at the federal level unfolds in the
coming days.   We have some opportunities to succeed for school libraries
and K-12 students in this next phase but we are facing some very real risks
of losing.   And, I don’t like to lose; not when it’s this important.

I want to answer some of your questions about federal school library
proposals and if or how we can succeed in Congress for the long haul.
Unfortunately, making legislation is really like making sausage so bear with
me as I explain some of the crazy contradictions in the process.

*What is happening in the U.S. Senate on school library proposals right now
and what is ALA doing?
*Starting today, (Wednesday, October 19) the U.S. Senate Committee on Health
Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) begins a process to mark-up a bill to
reauthorize ESEA.   It is our understanding that by the end of this week,
the HELP committee will complete its work on the bill, including many
amendments.  Then the bill goes to the Senate floor for a final Senate
vote.  We have no way of knowing when the bill will go to the Senate floor.

The public got access to the draft bill on October 11, 2011.  This bill was
changed on Monday, October 17 in what was called “the Manager’s Amendment”
and the committee had a deadline of yesterday at 10:30 a.m. for other
committee member’s amendments.   Not an unusual situation while making
sausage, I mean legislation.  It is expected that there will be around 150
amendments to be considered.

Leading up to this point, and since the beginning of the 112th Congress in
January of this year, ALA, working closely with the American Association of
School Libraries (AASL), developed and successfully had the SKILLS Act
introduced by Sen. Jack Reed and Thad Cochran asking for a federal
initiative dedicated to supporting and enhancing school libraries as part of
federal education legislation.  This bill has only 5 cosponsors, which,
unfortunately, is not enough to have this proposal “slide” through the
Senate.   The language of the SKILLS Act is the culmination of several other
proposals we made in previous Congresses.

*What will the Senate HELP Committee do this week?
*This effort has been the height of “hurry up and wait.”  For 2 years, ALA
and its members have been talking to their legislators about including
school libraries in federal legislation.  Senators Reed and Cochran
introduced the SKILLS Act in June 2011.  There are various procedural steps
expected as the final version of the ESEA bill actually goes to the
committee for a mark-up; things will be happening quickly this week.  The
SKILLS Act has morphed into an amendment by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and
Patty Murray to the larger ESEA bill as the Senate HELP Committee begins its
work.  This is not an unusual occurrence as bills evolve and consolidate or
morph through the legislative process.   At this point, our advocacy alerts
have started referring to a school library “amendment” rather than the
SKILLS Act.     We think the overall ESEA bill will pass, although we do not
know if the school library provision will be supported.   But another step
in sausage making…

*Who are our champions?
*Senator Jack Reed continues to work very hard for school libraries.  He
wrote the SKILLS Act, recruited a Republican co-sponsor, Thad Cochran, and
twisted arms to get the original co-sponsors (Senators Kerry, Murray,
Rockefeller and Whitehouse).  He got appropriations language for school
libraries in this year’s Senate Appropriations bill and has worked with
Senator Whitehouse to create this amendment to ESEA.

Senator Murray has agreed to co-sponsor the Senator Whitehouse’s school
library amendment.

We need to say thank you.

*What happens after the Senate passes ESEA?
*Because of the history and difficulties in getting ESEA reauthorized in
previous Congresses, the agreement between the House and the Senate is for
the Senate to pass ESEA first.  Then the bill would go to the House.  The
House has passed 4 smaller education bills, none of which address school
libraries, and the Senate does not support that approach.   On top of this,
the current House leadership has indicated that it will not work on ESEA
until 2013 – the next Congress, after the 2012 presidential and
congressional elections.

*Why are we so worried about the Senate bill and what is happening the House
of Representatives?
*We need for school library language to stay in ESEA for the next
Congress.   With the assumption that the 113th Congress will start with the
Senate bill from this 112th Congress, it is extremely important that the
school library provision gets into ESEA now.

If the House should vote on ESEA in this Congress, we must be in the Senate
bill because there is no unique House bill.     If school libraries are not
included in this pending Senate bill, it is extremely unlikely that we would
be able to persuade the same congressional players in the next Congress to
add in a school library program.   Is this type of dynamic written down
anywhere?   No, but because of many years of lobbying and political
observing, we know what kind of challenge it would be.

*What is the long term expectation?
*First, we must succeed in the short term:   get a school library program
into the Senate’s ESEA now.   By doing so, we position school libraries to
be included when an ESEA bill is finally reauthorized, even if that is in
the next Congress.

*Why is ESEA taking so long to reauthorize?
*Getting ESEA reauthorized, including changing the name from No Child Left
Behind (NCLB), has taken years already.    ESEA itself is controversial and
the current political environment leading into the 2012 presidential
election year complicates all legislation – this bill as a whole as well as
our proposal for school libraries.

*But, still, why can’t we get everything we want?
*Well, like sausage, legislation is a mixture, often roughly ground up and
stirred together.  By nature, the legislative process is a series of
compromises.  In previous ALA initiatives to get federal school library
legislation there were some provisions that are not now in the SKILLS Act.
Unfortunately, we have not had great support from the education unions and
from other K-12 organizations.  We are competing with everything from
literacy coaches to classroom teachers – even though we know that school
librarians are both of these.  In the present political environment and the
challenging budget climate, we have to cling to survival for our school
libraries and, more importantly, the students they serve.  We have to
survive in ESEA now to live another day to get funding or even more advanced
programs in the future.

*What can I do?
*Please look at this blog twice a day.  Put in a call to your U.S. Senators
from your states at 202-224-3121.  Those of you who have a senator on the
Senate HELP Committee must be particularly active and alert.  Please respond
to every action alert – even if you called or wrote your senators before
about school libraries.  Get other colleagues and neighbors to also call
in.  It only takes a few moments to call the senate switchboard, ask for
your Senators’ offices, and leave the message:  SUPPORT SCHOOL LIBRARIES IN

Lynne Bradley
Director, Office of Government Relations

*Diedre Conkling**
Lincoln County Library District
P.O. Box 2027
Newport, OR 97365
Phone & Fax: 541-265-3066
Work email**: **diedre at lincolncolibrarydist.org*<diedre at lincolncolibrarydist.org>
Home email: **diedre08 at gmail.com* <diedre08 at gmail.com>

 WAR IS OBSOLETE<http://www.facebook.com/pages/WAR-IS-OBSOLETE/297916183027>
Holding resentment is like eating poison and waiting for the other person to
keel over. - Unknown Author
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