South Okanagan literacy funding cut

After five years promoting and developing literacy, Literacy Now South Okangan-Similkameen may soon be closing up shop.

After five years promoting and developing literacy, Literacy Now may soon be closing up shop.

Earlier this week, organizers of Literacy Now received a letter notifying them that funding for the community literacy group had been eliminated.

They are not alone. Around the province, 55 communities have seen their literacy funding cut by Decoda Literacy Solutions, a province-wide organization that receives its funding from the Ministry of Education.

The Literacy Now executive has already met and drafted a response to the funding cuts expressing their concern that the complete loss of funding means the loss of the outreach co-ordinator position, ending the coordination of literacy initiatives in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.

“The message I get is that this function is too large for any one group to take on,” said Joan Chambers, the outreach co-ordinator. She describes her position as the link between the members of the Task Group, which represents service agencies across the South Okanagan and Similkameen, who meet regularly to share information about literacy programming, identify gaps and work on enhancing and promoting literacy services.

The reason for the wholesale cuts, according to Decoda, is a lack of funding from the province. According to a letter received from Brenda Le Clair, CEO of Decoda, funding for the coordination of community literacy task groups was $2.5 million province-wide for the first three years, but last year, the Ministry of Education cut funding to $1 million.

Decoda added $1.5 million from its reserves to address the shortfall last year, but are unable to do so this year. Not all community literacy groups are seeing their funding cut, however. Nearly fifty other groups will receive full or partial funding.

“Some of the groups, like in the Lower Mainland, have made connections with industry and they (Decoda) see that as probably being sustainable,” said Chambers.

According to a notice posted on the Decoda website, groups were chosen to receive funding based on whether they had developed other funding partnerships, such as with local industry, community foundations or trusts.

“The very difficult decision about which communities to fund out of $1 million is based solely on actual and impending industry/business and regional Trust support for literacy programs through community literacy task groups that we believe will continue and can be built upon to diversify funding across the province.”

“It does seem that the communities that need it the most are not receiving the funding,” said Chambers. “The work has been tremendous, the plan has been carefully thought out based on our needs, and we have worked tirelessly at implementing many of the goals in the plan and have moved forward with creating literacy awareness and special literacy programming.”

The Literacy Now executive shares Chambers’ concerns and are asking for more of an explanation as to how Decoda decided what communities to cut funding for, and why the decision was not made collaboratively. They also note that the groups that continue to receive funding are the task groups that rely the least on the funding from Decoda to continue, while the smaller communities that rely solely on Decoda are losing everything.