One of my favorite bands is Los Lobos, who shot to fame with their version of La Bamba but whose album How Will the Wolf Survive is a classic mix of mexicano rock and roll. I was thinking of the title track yesterday of the wolf surviving in the midst of change as I received some disheartening news from the National Writing Project. In a recent budget action, President Obama signed a bill that cuts NWP (and other educational groups) out of the federal education funding formula.
Here is part of the text of the NWP bulletin:
Dear NWP Colleagues,
Yesterday President Obama signed a bill to keep the government running until March 18. The bill cuts about $4 billion in spending from the FY 2011 budget, eliminating funding for a number of education programs, including the National Writing Project, Reading Is Fundamental, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and Teach for America. These cuts impact NWP’s federal funding beginning October 1, 2011.
I know you have many questions about what this means for us as a network and for each of us as individuals. While we cannot answer all of these questions today, below are some we can answer. Despite the funding decision, legislative offices continue to voice strong support for NWP and the work of Writing Project sites in local communities. While this funding news is a significant setback, your countless efforts to reach out and educate Congress have had a tremendous impact.
NWP was founded on a set of principles and values, and these ideas still guide us today. We began as a single site in 1974, before federal funding, and we are a strong “human network” of sites and individuals that will not go away with the stroke of a pen. We are a powerful organization and we are here to stay!
We will continue to pursue options for federal and non-federal funding and will share them with you as soon as we have a definitive path.
Sigh. Anyone with any understanding of politics knows that once funds are removed, it is very difficult to get it back in a budget. That said, I am sure that teachers and administrators who are connected to NWP will make their voices heard and push for support for a network that provides important and valuable professional development around writing, reading, technology, social justice, and more. A spring meeting that is also a prime lobbying effort by NWP folks (including my wife) will no doubt be fraught with anxiety and passion, and provides a time to bend some important ears.
The NWP has a site set up for information related to the funding issue: come visit NWP Works.
I can’t imagine the National Writing Project going away, but I can imagine that things will be different. Like the wolf, which still thrives today (just not everywhere it once did and not in the same way it once did), the NWP will still be a vital connection for many of us whose practice and thinking has been transformed by the experience of being part of something that began with a few teachers talking about how to become better teachers.
Peace (in the survival),