The Competition: Where NWP Stands

There was a newsletter email in my box the other day from National Writing Project Executive Director Sharon Washington that began with the line that “We would like to share some good news.” I wondered, is this it? Has funding for the National Writing Project somehow been restored? Has all the lobbying in DC and the hundreds of blog posts and all of those phone calls finally made a bit of a difference?

Not really.

Funding is still gone in the latest budget and the “good news” is only that NWP and all of the other literacy groups that got stripped of federal support can now apply for some competitive grants, which the government has “graciously” set aside from its $3 billion in teacher-quality testing money for educational programs. That amount is apparently just one percent of the $3 billion.

Thanks a lot.

The funding bill (see summary of entire bill) also eliminates a number of other education programs, including:

  • Educational Technology State Grants—$100 million.
  • Literacy Through School Libraries—$19 million.
  • Byrd Honors Scholarship Program—$42 million.

I know we are in the era of competitive spirit (ie, Race to the Top) as a push to enact positive change in struggling schools. It’s an era where “my” program has to beat “your” program in order to keep afloat from year to year. Survival requires lobbying, and political connections, and is anchored on other things that we classroom teachers don’t always “see” because we are too busy working on lesson plans, giving an extra hand to the struggling student or teaching, for goodness sake.

But I do wonder if the officials who set up these competitive elements realize that it may very well be our students — the most vulnerable population out there — who are most impacted. I look at the list of educational programs that are cut and I can’t help but think: so many of these initiatives are reaching under-served populations of students and struggling socio-economic communities, and now they are gone or in danger of disappearing.

What happens to those kids?

I’ve written and called my representatives about supporting NWP funding. Only one (Sen. Scott Brown) has responded to me — and not necessarily in a timely manner, either —  and that is with an email that looks familiar to the one I got about six months ago from his office. Here is part of what he wrote:

Like you, I believe that every child deserves access to a quality education that allows them to become successful and active members of their community.  As a parent, I recognize the positive impact that strong support systems and educational opportunities can have on children during their early developmental years …. I believe that federal, state, and local governments must continue to work together to protect the quality of education being provided to students while also developing additional efficiencies and cost-saving measures to respond to today’s tough fiscal environment.  However, because of the trillions in debts and deficits we face, there are virtually no areas of the budget that are completely immune from reductions. — Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass)

Which means, the cuts are continuing. Brace yourself.

Peace (in the frustration),

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