B.C. backs off on literacy cuts

Local literacy officials are grateful but they could be happier.

Shuswap Literacy Alliance of the Shuswap Society (LASS) co-ordinator Jennifer Findlay returned from spring break to discover the province has restored most of the funding for co-ordinators – for this year.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education funded Decoda Literacy Solutions to the tune of $1 million, $1.5 million down from previous years.

This did not sit well with literacy groups in the province, which rely on co-ordinators to keep the programs running.

As well, at a March 5 meeting with Decoda, Education Minister Peter Fassbender suggested there would be no funding for literacy co-ordinators in the 2014/15 budget.

Findlay says the government is only giving Decoda $2 million, arguing that $500,000 in funding to the Raise-a-Reader program takes literacy funding to the $2.5 million mark.

But Findlay isn’t arguing, because the shortfall to LASS is reduced to about $4,000 from the $17,000 she thought her organization would be shorted.

Findlay says she is grateful to Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo, who called to give her the news.

“There’s also been follow through on his end,” she says, noting Kyllo had promised to take up the literacy cause. “That ‘s what we want our elected representatives to do. He’s always been in our corner and we are greatly appreciative.”

Findlay is also offering kudos to the Observer and Eagle Valley News for getting the word out about the cuts and their ramification on literacy projects.

“Thanks so much for including the articles in your papers about our funding situation,” she wrote in an email Monday. “Decoda picked up the articles from both the Observer and the Eagle Valley News and shared them provincially with various levels of government and with all 102 affected communities. Good on you!”

Pointing to the time and energy required to fight for provincial funding restoration as literacy groups did last year as well, Findlay is hoping the province will respect the Legislative Select Standing Committee on Finance’s recommendation to make the $2.5 million part of the annual budget.

“It just makes sense to add it as a budget line so we can plan for longterm programming,” she says.

And while he supports the idea and the “extremely important work Findlay and her team do,” Kyllo has a caveat.

“I’d be in full support of that, but at the same time, we have to stay focused on growing the economy – only with that will be able to fund the programs,” he says.



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