With more than $220 million in direct funding and millions more in library-eligible funding on the line, library advocates are responding to the White House’s devastating budget proposal, and library champions in the US Senate and House are stepping up.
For the fourth year in a row, the Trump administration has called for the elimination of the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), currently funded at $195.4 million, and Innovative Approaches to Literacy (IAL), a school library-eligible program through the Department of Education, currently funded at $27 million.
Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are calling on their Senate colleagues to support LSTA. In the House, Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Don Young (R-Alaska) are doing the same. Dear Appropriator letters are circulating in Congress until March 9 defending these programs.
“Libraries serve a vital role in our communities, offering free access to essential information on a wide range of topics, skills and career training, and computing services,” Reed and Collins noted in their letter.
Reed is also leading the effort on IAL, alongside Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Reps. Young, Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas), and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.).
“Unfortunately, far too many children in poverty face prohibitive barriers to access age-appropriate, high-quality reading materials and adequate learning facilities,” Johnson wrote in her letter. “Two-thirds of children living in poverty have no books at home, hindering their ability to learn critical reading skills, fostering chronic disadvantages for already underserved youth…. The IAL program helps to ensure that children enter school ready to learn and best positioned for success.”
IAL provides funding for age-appropriate book distribution, early literacy services, technological integration and support for literacy activities, professional development for educators, culturally responsive literacy workshops for parents and families, and effective school library programs.
The silver lining is that Congress has not only rejected the administration’s previous budget priorities but has given increases to LSTA and many other library-eligible programs. Last year, Congress provided a $6 million increase to LSTA, the largest increase in 12 years.
In addition to these direct funding streams for libraries, the administration is urging Congress to eliminate several other programs that indirectly benefit or provide opportunities for libraries. These cuts include:
- the elimination of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities ($167.5 million each for FY2020)
- the elimination of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title IV part A grants for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment program ($1.2 billion)
- the elimination of ESSA Title II grants for professional preparation, training, and recruiting of teachers ($2.1 billion)
- the elimination of formula grants for Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy programs ($190 million)
- the near-elimination of ESSA Title I funding for improving basic programs operated by state and local educational agencies ($16.3 billion)
A national network of librarians is being called on to sustain the momentum, especially as the push continues to bring on board several more members of Congress. Leading this effort are American Library Association advocates, who have now engaged in this fight four years in a row.
ALA is asking library advocates to take two minutes today to visit ALA’s #FundLibraries campaign page and see if their members of Congress have signed on to the effort. If not, please email your elected officials and urge them to sign on to the Dear Appropriator letters in the House and Senate.