Thursday, April 15, 2010
The New York Times recently reported that the new federal plan for allocating funding to fight illiteracy may have some unfortunate results. The federal budget proposed for 2011 provides for the pooling of all federal money that is now directly granted to organizations like Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) and the National Writing Project (NWP), and distributing that money to state and local governments for allocation. The Department of Education argues that this change will enable agencies to focus on the areas of greatest need to improve student performance.
This pooling, however, will mean that groups like RIF and NWP will face an abrupt increase in their administrative costs. Presently, RIF and NWP deal directly with the federal government. Going forward, they will have to partner with individual state and local governments to get access to funding. This will require hiring people to write grant applications specifically tailored to the requirements of each state, resulting in a diversion of limited resources away from providing books to children, and towards covering added administrative costs. The threat to RIF and NWP highlights a larger problem in the non-profit sector. When innovation becomes a goal in itself, it can hurt effective, established programs, especially when innovation is not coupled with new funding to support it. RIF and NWP have built their institutions and positive impact on continued federal funding.SS