For the second year in a row, the Ministry of Education has drastically reduced the amount of funding they are allocating to communities all across BC through the provincial literacy advocacy agent Decoda Literacy Solutions. Decoda’s job is to help communities provide literacy outreach programming to those whose literacy needs are not being met through other educational/conventional sources.
Princeton formed Princeton Leaders for Literacy in 2008. By 2009, the local task group was moving forth…identifying literacy gaps, speaking with local groups and individuals on needs and wants for literacy, reaching out to School District #58 who presently has three representatives on the Princeton Leaders for Literacy Board, initiating programs and developing a literacy plan specific to our area.
This year the Ministry of Education decided to only release 1 million to Decoda. However, Decoda’s reserves are gone and 55 communities lost all their funding. The result: 55 communities will be winding down all their good work, closing programs and turning away those in need. The Liberal Legacy is short-lived, but in their literacy legacy wake lie job loss, literacy gaps, and no hand up for those in need.
Some communities are closing the doors on their programs as we speak. Other communities, like Princeton, have a few months to find help or they too will face the same future.
At present, Princeton Leaders for Literacy offers computer courses for seniors through the Princeton and District Skills Centre, a tutoring program for anyone with literacy needs whether their needs are for reading basics, English as a second language, high school math or other literacy issues, a book program through Riverside Centre, a childminding program for parents returning to school, a computer tutoring program through Princeton’s Okanagan Regional Library and Princeton Secondary School, Welcome to the World literacy bags for new additions to the community and other forms of literacy aid such as Celebrity Reading Day at John Allison Elementary. If funding cannot be found by September, Princeton’s successful literacy programs will be on the chopping block too. “Princeton is already doing more than our fair share to help make these programs work,” stated Literacy Outreach Coordinator Dierra Maynard. Leaders for Literacy have been using space for tutoring sessions for free through the Skills Centre, the schools and Riverside Centre. Riverside is the location for the free book program. Beatrice Bibby has been working with other agencies to access books for new families. First Books Canada donated books to Princeton through a successful grant application, the Okanagan Regional Library and Princeton Secondary School are partnering to try and help the technology challenged.
Cuts are being made to programs that change people’s lives for the better. The provincial government has been spending a lot of time talking about creating jobs in this province…cutting these programs is cutting jobs and not just for 55 Literacy Outreach Coordinators, but to tutors, program facilitators, and many other organizations. Rural communities are the hardest hit, as always seems to be the case. Rural B.C. matters—they vote, pay taxes and contribute 70 percent of the money that runs this province. Rural B.C. has needs too. It is time the provincial government starts treating them with the social consciousness they deserve and give 1.5 million back to Decoda…money that effects thousands of people in the province.