An Open Letter to Congressman Cory Gardner – Restore Funding for the National Writing Project

Dear Representative Gardner:

We’ve not yet met, although I’ve attempted to introduce myself to you several times via Twitter. My name’s Bud Hunt, and you represent me in the House of Representatives. I live in Fort Collins and am proud to share the state of Colorado with you. While I didn’t vote for you, I think you’re a smart guy who has promise.

That said, we need to talk.

See, sir, you’re really, fired up about eliminating waste right now. And that’s good. I’m not a fan of wastefulness in government or anywhere else. The thing is, sir, I don’t believe that you understand some of what you’re cutting.

I get it. You’re new. And want to have a meaningful impact in Congress. And two years, well that’s just not a lot of time. So you’ve got to strike fast and hard and you’re coming out strong for stopping “reckless” spending. Good on you.

But you, and many of your colleagues in the House, seem to believe that the National Writing Project is wasteful and reckless spending. For that matter, you also voted to eliminate funding for National Public Radio. Somehow, you’ve decided that those two programs are “wasteful and reckless.” And, Representative Gardner, that’s just not the case.

The has been making a powerful difference for students and teachers for over thirty years. For twenty of those years, the federal government has provided funding to support the important work of helping to ensure that thoughtful teaching and learning of writing is happening in our schools. many of my colleagues in light of the possibility that federal funding will cease and the work of the organization will radically change, if not outright end. You might want to take a minute and read some of the stories. They’ll make you a believer, I suspect.

If those don’t do the trick for you, then perhaps you can just skim the research on the NWP. I’ll give you a one sentence summary – the NWP works. For students. For teachers. It makes a positive difference in American education. Or it did. Until you helped to end its federal funding.

The thing is, Congressman, you pulled the plug on a thoughtful and long term investment in education. Killing an investment that is bearing good fruit is wasteful, sir. Maintaining that investment is prudent. Wise, even.

You, sir, know the importance of writing. You write lots. I recently read an editorial that you published on your Congressional website. In it, you wrote that

a vote against the CR is a vote against cutting wasteful government spending. It’s as simple – and as important – as that.

Excuse me, sir. But it’s not that simple. In your haste to make a difference and rein in “waste,” you’re hurting American students and American education. That’s not acceptable. I’d appreciate it if you’d pay better attention to what you’re doing.

Recently, on my website, I wrote:

I want to live in a country that honors the important work of teaching and learning. I want to live in a country where thoughtfulness about how we teach and learn is an essential piece of that work. I want a government that understands that you can use a little bit of money to make an awful lot of difference. Children who can read and write well are a precious national resource. Groups like the National Writing Project, groups that so thoughtfully help children and teachers to become better writers, deserve federal support.

So, yeah, I support the National Writing Project. I believe in teachers teaching teachers to make a difference for students. You?

Don’t you believe that modest investments in programs that make a positive impact on our children and schools are investments worth maintaining?

I suspect that you believe in American teachers and American students. I suspect that you believe that a strong education is essential to making sure that we have a strong economic foundation for our future. I know that you value writing and its place in students’ learning.

But your vote, and your rhetoric, is anything but simple. It’s wrong of you to suggest that spending federal dollars, dollars matched 100 percent by local matches in each of the 200 sites of the National Writing Project, is wasteful, when those dollars make a significant impact on children. Those dollars, sir, keep good teachers teaching at a time when half of our teachers don’t last beyond five years in the classroom. Those dollars, sir, help children realize their potential as writers and their teachers to realize their potential to have an impact beyond their own classrooms.

That wasn’t wasteful, Congressman. But you either didn’t notice, or weren’t willing to look.

I hope that you erred, sir. And I hope that you’ll stand with others to restore funding for the National Writing Project for the 2011 fiscal year and beyond. I look forward to your public commitment to the work of the National Writing Project and programs like it that responsibly serve as good stewards of one of our most precious natural resources – our children.

I’d be honored to introduce you to children and teachers in our neck of the woods who have been directly impacted by the work of the National Writing Project and our local affiliate, the t. When you meet with them, you’ll see the value that the work has.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll write with us, and we can overlook your error. We all make mistakes, Congressman. I’m willing to overlook this one, so long as you’re willing to correct it.

I look forward to that, Congressman. Soon.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss the work of the National Writing Project further. I look forward to the opportunity. And I look forward to your response.

All the best,

Bud

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