Today I’m prepping to head off to the NYACCE conference in Albany.¹ I’m going to be part of a presentation about THE BOOK and part of a meeting programs from around the state who’ve been awarded the new Literacy Zone grant from State Ed.
I’m excited about this grant. It’s not for my agency, my program, it’s for our whole neighborhood, it’s about the community agreeing to work together to increase educational opportunities and improve services. No, it’s not a $10million grant. Yes, it would need to be that big for us to do all the things that we need to do. But it’s not a pathetically small grant, either. Six agencies in the community (including mine, of course) have gotten together to improve services, and we applied for the grant as a consortium.
Working as a team with agencies we also compete against for funding is a little weird sometimes, to say the least, but the Alliance — this group we’ve formed — pleases me. My hope is that it will force us to focus on the needs of the community first and on our bottom lines second. Ok, funding is important. After this year of losing so much funding and having to fire so many teachers, I know that funding is important. But I hate feeling that we’re driven by funding, that funding is the important thing.
Not too long ago I read The Revolution Will Not Be Funded and it made me think in different and sometimes uncomfortable ways about the fact that I am in a position that means I am always chasing funding, that I am always shaping my program to fit fundingrequirements. I had my first taste of this at an old job. I wanted to start classes on Saturdays, the agency secured funding to make that happen, so I started planning. I made a flyer to do some outreach for the classes … and my boss pulled the flyer and had it remade. ABC Company Saturdays it said across the top of the page (or, you know, the real name of the sponsoring company). What? Turned out the funding was from ABC Company… and that we had to proclaim this fact on all our materials … and that was only the first of the rules imposed on my little Saturday plan.
Now, I drink ABC Company’s coffee. Not every day, but I am definitely a customer. I don’t hate ABC Company. I don’t even hate that they want people to know when they’ve given money to community organizations. Why wouldn’t they want people to know? I don’t think they should get to tell me how to run my classes, however. I think programming decisions should be left to the people who know and understand the program. Yes, it’s much more exciting for the coffee folks to say they’ve provided classes for 125 people than for 50. I get that. But I also get that, if I enroll a progress-deterringly high 60 people in a class, I’m going to lose nearly every one of them because a class that big is going to come with about 65-70% attrition.
In the case of ABC Company, I ran my Saturday classes the way I wanted to run them … and we were seen as a failure because we didn’t enroll even half the people they wanted us to enroll. We didn’t get refunded.
The Literacy Zone funding isn’t like ABC Company’s funding. State Ed is actually one of my favorite funders. But I can’t stop thinking about the difficulties of having to run around looking for money under every governmental and family foundation rock. I am fortunate to have a boss in my current job who doesn’t believe in playing Twister with her programs to fit funder guidelines. I worry, however, that we may all be pushed to abandon our positions on this shaky moral high ground if the economy doesn’t turn around soon.
Yesterday I wrote a tanka to start the month, but was so beat when I got home I was too tired to get online and post it. So here, a day late, is my May Day tanka²:
dogwoods are blooming
open in pink, cream and green
it’s the first of May
this morning’s light and easy
and pinch-tipped blooms make me smile
¹ Don’t ask me to remember what the acronym stands for. New York Association (?) of Continuing and C_____ (Community?) Education … Something big and inclusive like that.
² Alejna has also written a May Day poem (I’m so happy to see more and more people writing tanka!). Along with her tanka, she has posted the quite strange and fabulous video for Safety Dance. Excuse me while I go watch it again … I will be singing that song for the rest of the day!