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Maple Ridge literacy group lobbies for stable funding

Literacy initiatives in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are endangered by a lack of government funding, said Bruce Grady of the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows-Katzie Community Literacy Committee

He and co-chair Jesse Hill were reporting their group’s activities to the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows School Board.

“It’s shocking that literacy is not at the forefront,” said Grady.

Funds have flowed from the Ministry of Education to Decoda Literacy Solutions, and on to community groups across the province, like the local committee. Decoda has received $2.5 million in annual funding. However, during 2013, the province slashed the amount it offered Decoda to $1 million. After a public outcry, Victoria restored another $1 million.

That left literacy groups around the province to struggle with a $500,000 shortfall for the present year, creating uncertainty about funding from the province in the future.

Grady expects that full funding will not be restored.

Locally, the funding directly benefits an ESL women’s group, financial literacy workshops, a tax project, the training of literacy volunteers, book bins, Family Literacy Day and other initiatives.

“In our society, in this day and age, that we can’t put a focus on literacy and education is wrong,” said Hill. “People need help right now.”

She said the group’s programs go beyond reading and writing, and now include computer and financial literacy.

Hill called a society that cannot pay for such programs “remarkably ungenerous.”

The local literacy committee has operated on a tight budget, and has no reserves. The government funding is “seed money” that allows the group to identify and acquire other funding sources, and solicit donations and volunteer time.

Trustee Susan Carr said the literacy committee is an extension of the public education system, and put forward a motion to lobby the government for stable funding.

A letter will be sent from the board to local MLAs, the Edcuation Ministry, and federal MP Randy Kamp.

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