When federal cuts have eliminated fat, cut into flesh and scrape the bare bones

Although there are many examples to choose from of how cuts to the federal budget have compromised even conservative values, one that hasn’t received much attention is cuts to Literacy*AmeriCorps.

In his inaugural address on January 20, 1989, President George H.W. Bush said:

I have spoken of a thousand points of light, of all the community organizations that are spread like stars throughout the Nation, doing good. We will work hand in hand, encouraging, sometimes leading, sometimes being led, rewarding. We will work on this in the White House, in the Cabinet agencies. I will go to the people and the programs that are the brighter points of light, and I will ask every member of my government to become involved. The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in. 

AmeriCorps is a national service organization that was started in 1994, near the end of the first term of President George W. Bush. It is funded with grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service that are provided by the federal government. It pays poverty level stipends to volunteers who perform community service. The Literacy*AmeriCorps national program has been administered by the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council (GPLC), which is also a national leader in adult education and family literacy. Local organizations have managed the program in each of seven cities:Pittsburgh, PA ; Austin, TX; Dayton, OH; Los Angeles, CA; New Orleans, LA; Seattle, WA; and Washington, DC.  GPLC has overseen and monitored each local program. Effective at the end of July, AmeriCorps funding for this program has been eliminated, and these programs will close.

An article on Friday, July 13th, in the Seattle Times, describes how the loss of the Literacy*AmeriCorps national program will affect its unlucky English language adult learners:

  • More than a dozen literacy and basic English language programs in King County will lose their 25 AmeriCorps volunteers
  • An estimated 4,000 adult learners don’t know if they will be able to continue to learn English and basic literacy

The numbers of affected adult learners is significant, although relatively small when compared with the vast number of learners in California, where English language-focused adult schools have received mammoth cuts or have faced elimination.  What stands out for me is that this eliminates a program that supports volunteers trying to help immigrants who want to learn English and those who want to learn to read. Aren’t encouraging volunteers and supporting those who want to learn English and literacy conservative values any more? It looks like this will be the Congress known for blowing out the Points of Light.




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