ILA Urges ISBE to Allocate ESSA Funding to School Libraries

September 19, 2016

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Tony Smith, Ph.D.
Illinois State Superintendent
Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)

100 N. 1st Street

Springfield, IL  62777


Dear Superintendent Smith:

According to recent media reports and a Saturday, September 10, 2016 letter published in the Chicago Tribune, there has been a drastic reduction in the number of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) that now have a certified school librarian.  As an organization that represents more than 3,000 school, public, and academic libraries, librarians, and library users in the state, the Illinois Library Association (ILA) urges ISBE to turn its attention to this critical trend affecting not only CPS but school libraries statewide.  The services that certified school librarians provide are critical to overall improvement of schools and student achievement, and any investment in them will more than pay for itself.

Every child needs to have access to an effective school library program staffed with a certified school librarian in order to succeed.  More than 60 studies, including one conducted in Illinois in 2005, indicate that students without regular access to effective school library programs led by certified school librarians fall behind in academic achievement, workforce readiness, and adequate college preparation.

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) implementation plan for Illinois needs to include provisions for every child to have access to an effective school library program with a certified school librarian.  Furthermore, there are funding sources available for this critical need.  In addition to state and local monies that are being redirected at the building level, there is federal funding through the ESSA, including new Title II and Title IV monies available to support library programs.  We urge you to investigate, pursue, and incorporate all available sources in the statewide plan to allocate ESSA funding to school libraries and certified school librarians.

All of us in the Illinois library community—along with parents and the students in our schools—are ready to lend whatever assistance we can in making this a reality.  With state and national library groups, we are participating in a statewide workshop on Saturday, September 24, to inform and enlist the public and the profession in identifying stakeholders and building coalitions to support inclusion of school libraries in the ESSA plan.

Please let us know if we can provide any additional information, and we look forward to working with you on this important issue.

Sincerely,
Pattie Piotrowski, President, Illinois Library Association

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