New Brunswick

First Nation schools hurt by funding gap

First Nations educators in New Brunswick say First Nations schools are at a constant disadvantage because of a funding gap in what the federal government provides for education in band-run schools as opposed to provincial schools.

Ottawa pays almost twice as much per student to province than it does to First Nations for schools

Band schools in First Nations get half the federal funding that goes to schools off reserve. Educators who have to manage the gap say it puts them at a constant disadvantage. 2:30

First Nations educators in New Brunswick say First Nations schools are at a constant disadvantage because of a funding gap in what the federal government provides for education in band-run schools as opposed to provincial schools.

Every child who attends a band-run school comes with an allotment of $5,600, but the federal government pays more than $11,000 for every First Nation student who attends a school in the New Brunswick education system.

Allison Brooks, the principal of Harold Sappier School on St. Mary's First Nation, says teachers at his school must be committed to stay for less than they could make down the street at the provincial school.

"At some point in time, we're going to be able to compensate them in terms of staff, able to compensate them at the same rate that they do at the school that is less than a kilometre away."

7 First Nations schools

The are seven schools run by First Nations in New Brunswick. None offer education beyond Grade 8.

Ivan Augustine is the director of education for Elsipogtog First Nation. (CBC)
Ivan Augustine, the director of education at Elsipogtog First Nation, says the funding gap is hurting academics.

"The biggest hit we take is usually on our resources. And because of the lack of resources we've seen a decline in our assessments," he said. "So the academic gap has been hurt by the funding gap."

The inequality began, according to Esgenoopetitj education director Simon Dedam, in the 1980s when the bands assumed control of their own schools. He said teachers in the federally run schools were paid well and that funding was supposed to continue.

Funding formula changed

However, the second year, they changed the funding formula.

Simon Dedam is the director of education for Esgenoôpetitj First Nation. (CBC)
The federal government pays $1.5 million to send 100 children from Dedam's community to a provincial school, while the band school receives $1 million to educate 200 students.

All of them agree, however, that things have gotten better this year.

"I am very excited by some of the changes that that are happening," said Augustine. "Because of the change in government we've seen some increases in our education budget, and in our special needs budget, and some of the things that we've done in the past."

Brooks noted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a commitment last year for aboriginal education.

"So we're really anticipating some of those dollars are going to flow. "

With files from Catherine Harrop