ESEA authorizes $250 million for school libraries

Contact: Frank DiFulvio


Contact: Paige Wasson


ALA News Release

For Immediate Release

December 19, 2001

ESEA authorizes $250 million for school libraries

As part of the overall funding for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the U.S. House and Senate have voted to authorize $250 million for school library resources. The school library resource line item, sponsored by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), is part of President Bush's Reading First Initiative.

The American Library Association (ALA) applauded the decision.

"School children across America can thank Jack Reed for helping to stock their libraries with interesting, age-appropriate books," ALA President John W. Berry remarked. "Senator Reed recognized the problem of inadequate resources in many school libraries and has worked with innovation and creativity to remedy that problem. He is a hero to school librarians and school children everywhere."

The publication "Put Reading First," from the Department of Education points out, "One of the major differences between good and poor readers is the amount of time they spend reading." Although research indicates that a well-stocked and well-staffed school library promotes literacy and learning, funding for school libraries has plummeted over the past 30 years. Direct federal funding for school libraries was eliminated in 1981, and states have consistently cut school library funding to address other pressing needs. While the average price of a new library book is $16, the average amount spent by school district per student for books is $6.75 in elementary school, $7.30 in middle school and $6.25 in high school.

"Improving school libraries is critical to improving reading scores and overall student achievement demanded by this bill and will help to ensure the success of the President's Reading First initiative," Senator Reed said.

More than 4,000 librarians recently gathered at the American Association of School Librarians' (AASL) 10th National Conference and Exhibition in Indianapolis to discuss the role school libraries and librarians play in teaching and learning. AASL is a division of the ALA.

"With tight school budgets and the rising cost of books, many school library collections have become inadequate in the number of books and their currency," AASL President Helen Adams said. "Receiving federal support to purchase school library resources will enable school librarians to continue to be in the forefront of supporting reading instruction and literacy across the U.S. Reading research points to the importance of the print-rich environment in the development of early literacy. The $250 million will help ensure that kids become lifelong learners and fits well with President Bush's Reading First Initiative."

The final House and Senate joint conference on ESEA took place Wednesday, December 12, with conferees remarking on the need to pass historic legislation to help all children achieve, and expressing bi-partisan gratitude to the President for making education a top priority. The Senate passed the legislation yesterday, and the President is expected to sign the bill early next year.

Senator Reed and Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) were the original co-sponsors of the school library resources bill introduced in the Senate in 1999 that became the school library resources amendment to S. 1 and is now part of H.R. 1. Representative Major Owens (D-NY) was the original House sponsor of the legislation and was a conferee on this year's committee. In the last reauthorization of ESEA in 1994, Senator Reed, then a House member, was able to insert language in the final bill for school libraries, but funding was never achieved for the line item and it was removed in 1996.