By Frances Moody | Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2016 4:30 am
Wyoming Legislature LogoThe Teton Literacy Center stands to lose one third of its funding due to state budget cuts, but Laura Soltau said the loss of money will not shut down the organization.
“We knew we wanted to diversify funding, even before the proposed cuts,” said Soltau, the center’s executive director. “This is just encouraging us to move a little faster.”
The organization will look to grants and donations from individuals to make up for the $200,000 it is prepared to lose annually.
Soltau said its long-term plan includes building relationships with federal and individual organizations to get grants.
The center already receives an annual grant from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, a program that supports organizations that provide academic opportunities for children when they are not in school.
“We’ve had a large amount of government contracts that we’ve secured over the past three years,” Soltau said, “and have a big chunk of money coming from that.”
The center also works to maintain support from organizations it partners with, such as the Jackson Hole Children’s Museum, Teton County School District No. 1 and Central Wyoming College.
While Soltau feels confident that the center’s programming will be around for quite some time, she was surprised when she found out lawmakers are still in favor of eliminating funding for Wyoming literacy programs.
She said the center was aware that funding cuts would take place within the next three years, but now she expects them to take effect by this coming July.
James Rose, the executive director for the Wyoming Community College Commission, the agency that oversees the state’s family literacy programs, agrees with Soltau.
“At this point the prospects for continued state funding are not promising,” Rose said. “Depending on the final outcome of the budget and the governor’s recommendations, we will plan and adjust accordingly.”
Members of the state House and Senate have voted against several proposed budget amendments that would have restored funding for family literacy programs. For instance, Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Jackson, tried but failed last week to put $3.24 million for literacy program funding back into the budget.
Soltau said support from representatives such at Schwartz is much appreciated. Just knowing that Jackson lawmakers see the value of the Literacy Center is important, she said.
Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff, R-Jackson, said the Literacy Center has accomplished a lot.
“To just pick a program that’s been very successful and cut it, that really stood out to me as not being a responsible choice,” Petroff said.
One of eight centers that might lose funding, the Teton Literacy Center runs three programs. Its literacy lab, a kindergarten-readiness program for 4-year-olds, is the program the cuts will affect the most.
“The goal is to provide education to kids who don’t have access to preschool,” Soltau said.
The organization also offers tutoring for kids who struggle with reading, after-school clubs, and child care support for adults who wish to learn English as a second language or obtain a GED.
Soltau said it costs $650,000 each year to keep all of the center’s programs going.