BC?s Goal of Being Most Literate Jurisdiction on the Continent Weakened

Funding for Regional Literacy Coordinators has been cut.

Vancouver, BC, July 29, 2009 ? The BC Government is cutting a key part of the strategy that supports Premier Gordon Campbell?s golden goal of making BC the most literate jurisdiction in North America.

On July 16, the government announced that it would no longer fund 16 Regional Literacy coordinator positions across the Province.

Literacy is the essential skill needed for full participation in today?s society, but in BC, 40% of adults do not have the literacy skills to function and thrive in the modern economy.

Literacy BC is calling for the provincial government to maintain its commitment to making BC the most literate place in North America. Executive Director Judy Cavanagh says ?Maintaining a strong system for delivering literacy training is vital to BC?s economic recovery and to ensuring that the most vulnerable people are not forgotten during these difficult economic times.?

In these difficult economic times, cutting funding to literacy programs is counter-productive given the economic benefits of improving literacy. Literacy Matters[1], a report by Craig Alexander, Deputy Chief Economist of TD Financial Group, estimates that a 1% increase in literacy would raise productivity by 2.5%, which would add $32 billion annually to the Canadian GDP. In the report, Alexander says that improving literacy is so important, ?it is hard to identify any other single issue that can have such a large payoff to individuals, the economy and society.?

Regional Literacy Coordinators (RLCs) have been making a difference for literacy in BC for close to two decades. Originally, RLCs worked part-time and in only a few regions. RLCs proved so valuable that in March 2008 the Province allotted $1.6 million to fund RLC positions within BC?s post-secondary institutions. Just a year later, funding for this key piece of literacy infrastructure is gone.

Low literacy levels affect people?s job opportunities, health, and civic engagement. One million British Columbians do not have the literacy skills they need. According to Judy Cavanagh, Executive Director of Literacy BC, ?Regional Literacy Coordinators inspire communities to invest in literacy. They ensure coordination and collaboration among literacy groups. They train instructors and tutors so that learners receive the best possible instruction. They raise funds to sustain literacy in the long-term. They work to ensure that British Columbians have equal access to literacy opportunities and to full participation in the social, economic, cultural and political life of their communities. Now, this valuable expertise will be lost.?

Literacy BC is asking for meetings with government ministers and top officials to discuss ways to ensure that literacy services are maintained across BC.