7/08/2015 — 

Mr. REED. Mr. President, I come to the floor today to urge all of my

colleagues to support the Reed-Cochran amendment to encourage States

and school districts to integrate school library programs into their

plans for improving student academic achievement.

I would first like to thank Senator Cochran for his longstanding

partnership in supporting school libraries. He has been a steadfast

champion for ensuring that students have access to these vital

resources.

Fifty years ago, when President Lyndon Johnson urged Congress to

enact what would become the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, he

specifically called for an investment in school libraries, saying that

school libraries were simply ``limping along'' and insisting that we do

better. Sadly, this ``limping along'' is still true for too many

communities in our United States.

This spring, the Washington Post ran articles on the inequitable

access to school libraries in public schools in our Nation's Capital,

reporting that one school library in a wealthy part of town had 28,000

books in a library that spanned two floors, while 12 miles away, in a

school in a poorer part of the town, the school library had only 300

books along two walls. If that is not a stark example of one of the

things we hope we can fix through this act, I cannot think of anything

more direct and to the point.

Recently, noted author James Patterson made a pledge to help school

libraries. More than 28,000 applications came in.

One librarian reported that school libraries in her State had not

received any funding for three-quarters of a decade and that their

collections and equipment were out of date and in disrepair. I suspect

she is not alone in making such a report. We see this neglect despite

the fact that evidence shows that effective school library programs,

staffed by a certified school librarian, have a positive impact on

student achievement.

While I would like to see a much more robust school library-focused

initiative included in the reauthorization, along the lines of the bill

I introduced with Senator Cochran, I am very pleased that the

underlying bill includes an authorization for competitive grants to

help high-need school districts strengthen and enhance effective

library programs. However, we need to do more to encourage States and

school districts to integrate school library programs into their

overall instructional programs.

Effective school library programs are essential supports to

educational success. If you understand how to use the library in

school, that is not a skill that goes away; in fact, it will be a skill

for the rest of your life that you will use time and time again, not

only for your pleasure but for your progress and the progress of your

family. Knowing how to find and use information is an essential skill

for college, careers, and life in general. A good school library,

staffed by a trained school librarian, is where students develop and

hone those skills.

The Reed-Cochran amendment will encourage States and school districts

to ensure that students have access to effective school library

programs.

Once again, I thank my colleague, Senator Cochran.

I urge my colleagues to vote yes on this bipartisan amendment.

I yield the floor.