There are few things more essential to the overall well being of Islanders and the prosperity of the province than the ability to effectively read and write.
We might wonder, is this really an issue in 2017 for children and adults? Well, yes it is.
Even though there are many options to get an education on P.E.I., many Islanders do fall through the cracks. Because of personal and economic reasons, they couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity to advance very far in school, or supports were unavailable when they were needed the most.
Being fully literate affects one’s employment, health, housing, the ability to provide for one’s family and a myriad of other factors. If there is one area where government must throw its full support, it’s literacy.
So it’s almost incredulous to see that the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance is faced with imminent closure because federal core funding is not being restored.
The amount isn’t large - $150,000 – but it’s enough to threaten the future of the alliance. The situation is dire. Without core funding, the alliance is in danger of shutting down this fall. And that imperils various projects, which are co-ordinated by the alliance.
The alliance has somehow managed to operate the past five years – with some provincial, federal and private supports - since the former Conservative government cut funding to literacy organizations across Canada in 2014.
More than 700 P.E.I. students recently participated in a summer literacy program, which wrapped up Aug. 25. More than 20 tutors individually taught 30 students every week during July and August. To date, it has tutored 10,788 students. The program is invaluable but without Ottawa’s core funding, the entire program is in danger.
And last week the province announced additional funding to allow the summer tutoring program to expand year-round to keep students engaged in learning. But is expanded tutoring dependent on the alliance remaining as co-ordinator?
How does the province plan to launch that expanded tutoring program when it knew that Ottawa had just formally rejected restoration of alliance funding?
The blame this time is clearly on Ottawa’s doorstep and Island MPs and senators are at a loss to explain the reasons why literacy alliance funding isn’t being restored. It is sure to become an issue on the doorstep during the 2019 federal election.
It seems that both levels of government can come up with ample funding for other areas of learning. On Tuesday, Ottawa had no trouble signing a bilateral $10.5 million agreement on early learning and childcare with the P.E.I. government.
Ottawa can come up with billions nationally and P.E.I. can find millions locally for childcare spaces, which are certainly essential. But neither can come up with a combined $150,000 in core funding for the P.E.I. Literacy Alliance that administers valuable literacy programs for so many Islanders.
There are misplaced priorities at play here. It’s time that Ottawa and this province give their collective heads a shake and do the right thing. Restore alliance funding, now.