Teach for Canada 'opens the door to privatization', teachers' union says

Canada's largest teachers' association is slamming a program aimed at recruiting and training teachers for First Nations schools.

Work of non-profit lets government off the hook for First Nations education, president says

Canadian Teachers' Federation president Heather Smith says the level of funding for First Nations education is "atrocious." (www.ctf-fce.ca)

Canada's largest teachers' association is slamming a program aimed at recruiting and preparing teachers for First Nations schools.

Teach for Canada is a non-profit organization that partners with First Nations to recruit, train and support qualified teachers for schools on-reserve.

The president of the Canadian Teacher's Federation, Heather Smith, acknowledges the demand for teachers in First Nations, but said the Teach for Canada approach is heavily flawed.

"The Ontario government has given $70,000 to Teach for Canada, which is public money going to a private organization to address a public issue," she said. 

The level of government funding for First Nations education is "atrocious," Smith said. 

Currently First Nations-run schools, which are federally funded, receive one-third to nearly one-half less funding per student compared to provincially-funded schools.

"Our understanding is the under-funding of Aboriginal education has really opened the door to this privatization," Smith said.

"And we feel the federal government has the responsibility of serving First Nations communities well." 

'False hope'

The federation also has concerns about what it sees as a lack of support through Teach for Canada for inexperienced educators heading into isolated communities.

"My fear is that there is some false hope there, that they're not going to have the support that is put out there that they're going to have," Smith said.

Teach for Canada wraps up a month-long summer enrichment program in Thunder Bay on Friday, where executive director Kyle Hill said the 31 new recruits have formed a strong peer support network.

There are four pillars to the organization's support for its teachers, Hill said. That includes partnering each individual teacher with two mentors — a professional mentor available online and a community liaison to help them in the First Nation.

Teach for Canada also requires its teachers to fill out an online survey every two weeks to check in on their professional and personal well-being, and provides additional supports as needed, he said.