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Literacy programs hit by federal funding cuts

Trickle down effect will be felt by regional groups

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By Vivian Moreau

Recent massive federal cuts to literacy funding will affect the Sea to Sky region, according to local literacy advocates.

Capilano College says there will be no funding to train volunteers and practitioners who work with adults that have low-reading skills as a result of almost $18 million in nation-wide cuts.

Michelle Lebeau, the college’s literacy coordinator, says training workshops for Sea to Sky parents, preschool teachers and other professionals will have to be cut if the region loses its annual $2,000 grant.

“If that funding is cut, and we don’t see it come back in a new package, then that money is definitely on the chopping block,” Lebeau said.

Three weeks ago the federal government announced cuts of $17.7 million to local and regional literacy programs across the country over the next two years. Normally funded through Human Resources and Social Development (HRSD) grants, $5.8 million in 2006-07 and $11.9 million in 2007-08 will be eliminated. HRSD will focus its funding efforts on national programs instead.

Literacy programs aim to help the almost 40 per cent of British Columbians that have low-reading skills. Statistics Canada studies show that a rise of one per cent in literacy scores can contribute to a 1.5 per cent rise in gross domestic product per person.

“What these cuts are really doing is decimating much of the infrastructure that’s been built cooperatively across all levels of government and the literacy community over the past decade,” said Literacy B.C.’s executive director. Twenty per cent of Literacy B.C.’s funding will be wiped out, affecting two-week development programs the non-profit organization offers to volunteers and practitioners throughout the province. Research projects and an electronic conferencing network that keep practitioners around the province linked will also be eliminated.

In Whistler, Myrtle Philip Community School runs a literacy program three days a week for about 70 students with the help of 50 volunteers. Principal Sharon Broatch says the program, funded through provincial Ministry of Education grants, will be affected by loss of federal funds.

“All of those cuts will eventually trickle down. As the money decreases then those kinds of special initiatives will definitely be affected,” Broatch said.

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