Hants County's learning network bracing for cash crunch

Ashley Thompson
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Provincial rally will be held May 21 in Windsor

The Hants Learning Network Association is bracing for a major reduction in annual funding.

Katharine McCoubrey, executive director of the HLNA, says the non-profit stands to lose 30 to 48 per cent of its funding as a result of the federal government’s decision to redirect a large portion of the Labour Market Agreement cash doled out to provinces and territories for literacy and essential skills programs to the developing Canada Job Grant Program.

“Right now we are short 30 per cent for our annual budget, which is about $80,000,” she says.

The funding shift, announced last year, took effect April 1.

However, Nova Scotia-based organizations impacted by the funding change will not know how much money will be lost until an agreement is reached between the provincial and federal governments.

The uncertainty has folks at the HLNA — learners and instructors alike — worried that program cuts might be required to make up for the shortfall.

“We don’t have an abundance of funding to begin with,” says McCoubrey. “Most of our programs are already part-time programs, so to think about cutting those down even more is really hard.”

McCoubrey says the HLNA used the federal funding to expand classroom hours, start well-attended evening programs, make the GED program that’s free of charge, increase tutoring hours and bring in a computer instructor.

HLNA has two full-time staff and about six part-time instructors and support staff.

About 140 students took advantage of the free programs offered by the Windsor-based organization last year.

Cathy Caldwell, an instructor with 14 years experience teaching adult learners at the HLNA, says students between the ages of 19 and 80 have enrolled in the HLNA’s programs.

“Every year there’s success stories. I’ve had many students who have obtained their GED and either gone on either to a job, or to other training and then a job,” says Caldwell.

“Most of our programs are already part-time programs, so to think about cutting those down even more is really hard.” Katharine McCoubrey

“Most of them are really pleasantly surprised when they see how successful they can be when it is being taught in a way that works for them.”

Flexible schedules and one-on-one instruction is key for adult learner Roxane McLellan.

McLellan, a 36-year-old mother of two, turned to the HLNA for help obtaining her GED. She’s been studying there, at her own pace, since November.

“It’s a really good school,” the Windsor resident says.

McLellan dropped out of high school shortly after passing Grade 10. Living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)made high school difficult, but she says she is more capable of focusing now that she has a genuine desire to learn.

“If they cut the finding for this school that’s going to put a lot of us out because we can’t afford to get our education elsewhere,” she says.

McLellan believes dollars invested in adult literacy programs is money well spent. She says adult literacy programs are ideal for individuals on social assistance who must upgrade their education to find steady employment.

For McLellan, steady employment is the bottom line.

“I have two children at home and I need to get my education so I can get a good job for them. Plus, they’ll see how hard Mommy is working and they’ll want to do that for their kids when they get older as well.”

On May 21, the HLNA is hosting a ‘learning for earning’ rally at 11 a.m. outside their office location at 10 Water St. in Windsor.

 

 

Organizations: Hants Learning Network Association

Geographic location: Windsor, Hants County, Nova Scotia

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  • The Dartmouth Learning Network
    May 15, 2014 - 21:16

    Panicked by the dismantlement of literacy programs in Canada the Dartmouth Learning Network is struggling to understand how the Provincial and Federal governments feel that the cuts they are making are wise choices. International competency assessments by the OECD and PISA released in the fall of 2013 clearly demonstrative that working aged Canadians, especially our youth, are not making the grade in reading, writing, mathematics, science and critical thinking skills compared to other countries/economies. Low literacy creates a financial burden to all social support systems. Low literacy leads to significantly reduced employment opportunities. Jobs that are secured are low paying with minimal hours, poor working conditions and no benefits. Innovation begins when we are prepared to commit to and invest in upskilling the 38% of working aged Nova Scotians who lack a grade 12 academic education. This investment will continue to reap rewards decades into a future many of us will not see. Low literacy is not hereditary but it is systemic. Low literate children become low literate adults who raise literate children – a vicious cycle that needs to end. Canada is one of the few first world countries that does not have a formal plan for literacy and learning. Those making decisions do not understand that the damage to literacy achievement occurs long before a child enters school. Children raised in poverty or in homes where parents struggle with literacy, or worse a combination of both, will hear 30 million less words by the time they are 3 years of age than their more affluent peers. This gap places them at a significant disadvantage two years prior to them entering the school system. In late March community learning organizations heard their futures were in jeopardy. Monday the Canadian Literacy and Learning Network, the leading researcher in all issues relating to literacy, learning and essential skill development was informed their funding was cut, yesterday Literacy Nova Scotia was told their funding was cut. Three integral partners in literacy systematically dismantled. It is the end of the 9th and with three strikes against us it would appear the literacy is not a priority.