Budget cut challenges literacy efforts
Ensuring North Okanagan residents embrace reading has become even more challenging.
The Junction Literacy Centre has received a $30,000 cut in government funding and while programs are not at risk, the staff time required to co-ordinate these various efforts has been undermined.
“It puts pressure on our ability to maintain the level of community development we have provided,” said Debbie Schiller, executive director.
“It impacts our ability to expand and fill any gaps in literacy services.”
The full impact of the funding cuts will come in the fall, and one employee will be reduced to part-time. Other staff will try to pick up those duties.
“We won’t be able to do as much as we have done,” said Schiller.
Programs themselves are not being chopped because of community partners.
“We want to maintain a high level of outreach,” said Schiller of the initiatives targeted towards toddlers, school-aged children and families.
“We need to ensure a highly literate population. It stimulates the economy and reduces crime. The impact of literacy is huge.”
Efforts are underway to replace the $30,000, which makes up 10 per cent of the Junction’s overall budget.
“I’m writing grant applications so we can make sure we can get through this year,” said Schiller.
Possible revenue generators are charging for some workshops or hosting a major fundraiser. Drawing on reserves or a line of credit may also be needed.
The $30,000 the Junction received from the government came via Decoda Literacy Solutions, a non-profit agency that supports literacy in B.C.
Decoda’s funding from the Ministry of Education has gone from $2.5 million to $1 million a year.
Brenda LeClair, Decoda chief executive officer, says a tough decision had to be made and some community groups could not be assisted.
“We can’t keep the network going at $1 million,” she said.
The groups selected for funds were based on specific external funding available to Decoda and the terms of those grants.
“We are working hard to find solutions. For me, this is unacceptable,” said LeClair of not assisting the Junction and other groups.
“What’s happening in Vernon (with literacy) is exceptional and changing lives.”
The Ministry of Education states that a change in funding literacy programs was necessary because of a challenging economy and the need to emphasize core services.
“In the Ministry of Education’s case, that means increased focus on early classroom-based intervention for children who are struggling with reading,” said Jacqueline van Dyk, director of libraries and literacy branch, in a letter to the Junction.
Van Dyk goes on to say that Decoda drew down reserves last year to maintain literacy co-ordination at a level that is unsustainable without additional funding partners.
“I assure you that the literacy of B.C.’s children, youth and adults continues to be of great importance to this government and continues to receive our attention and support, now and in the future.”
Beyond the $1 million, a Ministry of Education spokesperson says Decoda got $500,000, plus $800,000 from other ministries.