In December 2015, Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) amid strong bipartisan support. The House passed the bill by 359–64, and seven days later the Senate passed the bill 85–12; President Obama signed it into law on December 10. The act, a long-overdue reauthorization of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), for the first time included language on “effective school library programs” and student learning outcomes. Although this Sisyphean task had been in the works since 2007, the legislation was seemingly enacted overnight, leaving some puzzled about what the victory means for library funding priorities at the state and local levels.
In 2002, when President George W. Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act, the previous ESEA reauthorization, the educational decision making and resource allocations were shifted away from the states. Testing requirements were significantly increased within legislation that also lacked language to include school librarians and libraries.
Since then several iterations of educational legislation have been presented to Congress to support school librarians, but they yielded little success. The message—with the American Library Association’s (ALA) Office for Government Relations beating the drum, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) calling school affiliates in each state to action, and ALA members making sure their voices are heard on the Hill—was loud and clear: School librarians ensure student success.