'Generations lost': Underfunding Indigenous schools 'comes at a cost,' school board chair says

School divisions need to stand with Indigenous Canadians and demand the federal government fix the persistent funding shortage faced by First Nations students, Winnipeg School Division Chair Sherri Rollins says.

Winnipeg School Division chair says federal government needs to step up, close education gap

Winnipeg School Division chair Sherri Rollins says the federal government needs to step up and close the funding and education gap for Indigenous students. (Courtesy of Sherri Rollins )

School divisions need to stand with Indigenous Canadians and demand the federal government fix the persistent funding shortage faced by First Nations students, Winnipeg School Division Chair Sherri Rollins says.

"My biggest concern is generations lost," said Rollins. "Chronic underfunding on reserve comes at a cost."

Rollins estimates on-reserve schools, which are funded by the federal government, are underfunded $4,000 to $6,000 per student. Because funding isn't the same for each reserve and it also differs among school divisions, there are no exact figures for the difference between reserve and other public school funding.

Many First Nations students have to travel to communities such as Winnipeg to complete their education, and that's when educators see gaps, because students aren't up to grade level, Rollins said.

"We have many reserves in Manitoba that don't have high schools. People are unable to complete their education that we've agreed for decades and decades and decades in this country that that's the bar, a high school education," she said.

"The feds are missing completely in this dialogue, and it's time for them to enter into the dialogue in a meaningful way with their partners, their education partners."

Although she has not reached out to Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, Rollins said she has spoken with her own MP, Liberal Jim Carr, about the issue and plans in the future to lobby Ottawa for changes.