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Local community literacy funding slashed
The non-profit organization that co-ordinates literacy programs in Chilliwack is worried deep cuts to its funding this year will be followed up by no funding at all next year.
The Chilliwack Learning Community Society (CLCS) got news this month that its funding from Decoda Literacy Solutions, a provincial non-profit that supports it, had been cut from $30,000 to $13,000, and that there might not be any funding next year.
Decoda met with Education Minister Peter Fassbender March 5 to talk about literacy co-ordination funding for the province, which dropped from $2.5 million in 2012-13 to $1 million in 2013-14.
“From our discussion with the minister, we are under the impression that there is currently no funding for community literacy co-ordination in the 2014-15 budget,” states a March 11 letter from Decoda to its literacy groups around the province.
Decoda officials said the news was especially disappointing since the Legislative Select Standing Committee on Finance had recommended funding distributed through Decoda stay at $2.5 million annually.
Locally, the loss of $30,000 may not seem like much, but CLCS literacy outreach co-ordinator Debbie Denault said her organization leverages that funding to generate more than $155,000 in grants and in-kind contribution for local literacy projects annually.
And that figure doesn’t include thousands of hours donated by volunteers or time donated by organizations like the University of the Fraser Valley, the Chilliwack school district and local libraries at the board level.
Denault said literacy outreach co-ordinators work broadly in the community to bring together all types of people who want to be involved in literacy, either by contributing to or by accessing programs and services.
She said a co-ordinated approach yields results and pointed to the local adult-to-adult tutoring program, which has seen more than a six-fold increase in clients seeking reading, writing, math, tech and ESL tutoring, since coming under the CLCS umbrella in 2009.
Without funding to marshall a co-ordinated approach, Denault fears both clients and donors will drop off.
“The board has to make some decisions now about how we’re going to manage this,” she said. “Reduction in funding means that we’re not going to be able to leverage the number of grants and in-kind contributions that we normally do.”
While it has lauded Decoda for its work, the Ministry of Education stated last week that a core review of all ministries to determine priorities and budgets is currently under way.
“The ministry wants to make sure it is best meeting the needs of British Columbians in the most fiscally responsible manner,” reads a March 17 statement.
The ministry also has a different take on its contribution to literacy programs.
“For the 2013/14 fiscal year, Decoda is receiving $1.5 million from the ministry —including $500,000 for Raise-A-Reader,” reads the statement. “In addition, in 2013/14, the Ministry of Advanced Education provided Decoda $62,000 and the Ministry of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training provided approximately $665,000.”
The New Democrats, however, have criticized cuts to literacy co-ordination funding.
“It’s disgraceful that the Liberals spent $15 million last year advertising their so-called ‘jobs plan,’ but are ready to cut this efficient, low-cost program that helps tens of thousands of British Columbians achieve the literacy and numeracy levels they need to get good family-supporting jobs,” stated NDP education critic Rob Fleming in a press release last week.
Neither Chilliwack MLA John Martin nor Chilliwack-Hope MLA Laurie Throness responded to Times requests for comment by press time.
- With files from Barb Brouwer, Eagle Valley News