It’s wrong on so many lev­els

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDITORIAL -

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.

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