I continue to ask of everyone I can speak with in Washington and in Congressional and government offices alike: What is the rationale for eliminating funding for the National Writing Project? It is a simple question, or it seems to be. But I can’t get anyone to answer it beyond broad strokes of “local and state redundancy” and “no significant impact” on students. Since I don’t understand how a national network can exist at the local or state level, and I have evidence to the contrary on impact on students and teachers, I’ll keep asking. It just doesn’t make sense.
An added wrinkle is that one of the folks that I originally started asking the question of is now, apparently, unwilling to talk to me at all. Here’s the story.
Every day this week, before and after work, I’ve left a message with the Press Office of the Department of Education asking for an answer to my question for the rationale behind the elimination of the National Writing Project from the 2011 proposed education budget. On Tuesday morning, I had a very nice and pleasant exchange with one of the women who answers the phones at that line. She was polite as I explained my request, as she read it back to me, and confirmed my phone number and e-mail address. She asked me when I’d like a response. I told her five PM that day, which is a typical turnaround for a media response. She said someone would get back to me prior to that time. She also asked me what news organization I was with. I informed her that I was a blogger, and she said okay.
No one returned that call.
But I’m stubborn I understand how busy people are. So, Wednesday morning, I called the press office back and, as luck would have it, the phone was answered by the same person. She remembered my question, and pulled up her notes. She had my phone number right. But I didn’t get a call back. I asked her why. That’s when she informed me that, as I wasn’t a member of the press, I wasn’t entitled to a response from their office. That floored me a bit.
I asked her to explain who told her that. She put me on hold, and after a few moments, returned and explained that Sandra Abrevaya, one of the folks who manages the office’s Twitter presence, fielded the request and informed the kind phone answerer that she should “only pass along (messages) if he is a reporter.”
I asked the receptionist, who again would not give me her name, so far the only person in the entire Education Department who has actually spoken to me on the phone, if she would get a definition from Ms. Abrevaya as to what constitutes a “reporter.” (I’m thinking that I sure am “reporting” this conversation and my experience.) I have yet to hear back.
I was referred to a general question and information line, which was actually quite helpful. If you’d like to inquire about an educational issue, you may have the best results by calling 1-800-872-5327 and pressing 3. Then again, it might not be THAT useful, because I’m still waiting to hear back from the person to whom I was referred from there, too.
I guess I’d have to express my disappointment in the Department of Education’s Press Office, and specifically Sandra Abrevaya. As one of the folks behind the @EdPressSec Twitter account, she has been, presumably, receiving my replies and requests for information about the National Writing Project rationale for more than two weeks. My voice messages for about a week. And she chose to ignore them. Because I’m not a “reporter.”
We cannot accept a government that simultaneously leverages social media to get their message out but ignores the messages of its constituents. I’m not willing to quit asking my question because I’m not a “reporter.” So, again, here’s what I’d like to know:
What is the rationale for the elimination of the National Writing Project? What is the information that was used to make the decision? Who is the person or persons who ultimately made the decision, and how would they answer others’ data that suggest strong results?
Why is that such a hard collection of questions to get an answer to? Seems like they’d certainly like to hear from us, but not talk to us.
I’ll keep trying. Maybe you will, too.
photo credit: Bud the Teacher