The Berkeley-based National Writing Project, a 37-year-old program to help teachers of all grade levels and disciplines teach writing, received some tough news this week. It lost all of its federal funding for the upcoming school year in a temporary spending bill President Barack Obama signed into law Wednesday in an effort to avoid a federal government shutdown.
Ed Week’s Alyson Klein reports that the writing project was one of more than a dozen educational programs that will lose federal funding temporarily, if not permanently. Support for such programs is technically defined as an earmark, since it is a non-competitive grant, though some of the organizations — such as Teach For America — are national in scope.
The National Writing Project’s network receives more than $25 million from the U.S. Department of Education; it encompasses 200 programs at colleges and universities in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Bay Area Writing Project, anchored at UC Berkeley, is the oldest one.
Sharon Washington, executive director of the National Writing Project, said the program has funding to carry them through the summer. She said summer programs will not be affected, and that the nonprofit — which knew the cuts were a possibility — is in preliminary talks with potential funders.
“We want the writing project to continue,” Washington said. “It’s going to be a challenge for us to raise those kinds of dollars in the time that we have.”
The project started in 1974, and it expanded after the federal government began to back the effort in 1991. It receives a small amount of foundation money, but about $47.5 million of its $49 million budget consists of federal dollars and matching funds from school districts and universities.
Teachers: Tell us about your experiences with this program. How has it changed the way you teach writing?