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Group looks to preempt funding cuts

Unplug and play: Aiden and Gerrit Hickman sweep for Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society coordinator Jennifer Findlay while Imogin and Amelia Iaccino watch and wait their turn during the annual LASS Unplug and Play introduction to curling held Monday afternoon at the curling club.   - James Murray/Observer
Unplug and play: Aiden and Gerrit Hickman sweep for Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society coordinator Jennifer Findlay while Imogin and Amelia Iaccino watch and wait their turn during the annual LASS Unplug and Play introduction to curling held Monday afternoon at the curling club.
— image credit: James Murray/Observer

Jennifer Findlay has a writing assignment for the Shuswap.

“We need polite letters reminding funders how well we do so they don’t forget about us,” said the Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap (LASS) outreach co-ordinator Friday.

Findlay says she had hoped that after last year’s struggle to restore provincial funding for literacy co-ordinators, the issue would have been resolved.

But, once again, Decoda Literacy Solutions, the agency that receives funding from the Ministry of Education and disburses it to literacy groups throughout the province, has only $1 million to spend.

It takes $2.5 million annually to properly fund the 102 literacy co-ordinator positions in the province.

Mike Leland, Decoda’s director of communications, says the organization usually receives notice of funding in December but has yet to hear from the province.

“We are working with the ministry; we’re angling for it, but the budget hasn’t been set yet,” said Leland Monday. “The ministry has been totally co-operating. We’ve been in talks with them and we were very optimistic.”

Leland says Decoda officials have asked groups to go to their local MLAs and make them aware of the importance of literacy and the good things they do in the community.

For Findlay, that meant a meeting with Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo.

“I met with him to talk about all the programs and literacy issues,” Findlay says, describing Kyllo as being super supportive. “He was surprised by some of the statistics and really valued and honoured the work that we do and all the community partnerships, volunteers and how it links to other donations.”

Findlay says the $30,000 LASS receives is leveraged for other grant opportunities, in-kind contributions and community donations, effectively tripling their budget.

“We can make a lot of good things happen, but if we don’t have the guaranteed co-ordinator funding, everything falls apart,” she says, pointing out that last year, LASS’ funding was initially cut just two weeks after then-MLA George Abbott presented a premier’s award and a speech about how critical a literate workforce is to the economy.

On a positive note, Findlay says the Select Standing Committee on Finance has recommended the $2.5 million be included in the budget annually so literacy groups don’t have to “beg, borrow and plead every year.”

Findlay encourages Shuswap residents to show their support by writing letters to Kyllo at greg.kyllo.mla@leg.bc.ca or in hard copy to Greg Kyllo, MLA, East Annex, Parliament Buildings, Victoria, B.C. V8V 1X4, with a copy to Education Minister Peter Fassbender at educ.minister@gov.bc.ca or PO Box 9045, Stn Prov. Govt., Victoria, B.C., V8W 9E2.

As well, Findlay says people can email their letters to her at admin@shuswap literacy.ca and she will forward them.

“Time is of the essence as the final budget decisions will be made at the beginning of February,” Findlay says.

“If we can secure annual provincial funding for community literacy co-ordination, this should hopefully be the last time we need to go through this type of letter-writing campaign.”

For more information, call Findlay at 250-833-2095.

 

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