APTN National News
Federal money for on-reserve education has put band-run schools at a “significant” disadvantage according to a new report released Tuesday by the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO).
According to PBO Jean-Denis Fréchette it’s because the money is less than what schools off- reserve would get because Indigenous Affairs doesn’t properly take into account the costs of operating the schools.
The budget watchdog says that the funding divide between education delivered on reserves and in the provincial systems was as wide as $595 million in 2012-13 and could grow to as much as $665 million this fiscal year.
For example, the report says that in 2012-13 on-reserve schools received per-student funding of $14,500 under the federal formula – but if calculated under the Ontario provincial rules they would have been allocated between $21,000 and $25,000.
“There’s a huge gap between the average funding that the (federal) government provides for First Nations reserves and what the provinces are providing,” said Mostafa Askari, assistant parliamentary budget officer.
“Now, how that impacts the students, that’s a different issue … But certainly there’s a funding shortfall relative to the provinces.”
Those schools face increased costs, compared to off-reserve, because of “socio-economic” disadvantages and the need for teaching Indigenous languages.
The report also found the need for special education is also higher on-reserve.
“We’ve known for some time that the delivery of education under (Indigenous Affairs) is an absolute black hole,” said NDP MP Charlie Angus.
Angus said what he found most disturbing in the report was “that it shows that there has been zero change in terms of how the department delivers services and how it tracks students.”
He said the auditor general and federal committees have raised the issue for years but there is still no change.
The PBO believes the $2.6 billion, over five years, announced in the 2016 federal budget could meet some of those shortfalls.
Education funding in Canada is primarily a provincial responsibility except for on-reserve schooling, which is paid for by Ottawa.
There were over 110,000 students on-reserve in 2013, with 65 per cent going to a band-operated school, while the rest went to provincial or private schools.
Indigenous Affairs spent $1.72 billion in 2014-15 on kindergarten to Grade 12 education on-reserve.
Between 1996 to 2016 annual increases were capped at two per cent and the PBO found the cap didn’t keep up with the similar schools off-reserve.
– with files from The Canadian Press