The provincial NDP is calling on the premier to put more pressure on the federal government to end the funding gap for students in First Nations schools.
They are funded at a rate about 40 per cent less than the provincial average.
NDP Education Critic, Carla Beck, says while it is the federal government’s responsibility, the province has a role to play.
“It is indefensible that we allow this to continue,” she said. “We really want to highlight this today — that we need to make a stand to ensure this funding gap is rectified.”
Beck says the province should make up the difference in funding, then bill the federal government. According to the FSIN, it would amount to about $80 million a year.
A year ago, the provincial government and the NDP sent a joint letter to the prime minister, asking that the funding gap be ended immediately. Beck says since then, the situation has gotten worse for First Nations children.
“The human cost to our kids should be reason enough to do the right thing, but the fact is, these cuts and this dramatic under-funding are also hurting the economy and blocking important economic opportunities,” said Beck. “Every child in Saskatchewan deserves an equal opportunity to succeed.”
In a statement provided to MBC News, Education Minister Don Morgan says: “The Government of Saskatchewan cannot step into this area of federal jurisdiction. Funding for K-12 education on-reserve is, and remains, a federal responsibility. We continue to actively encourage the federal government to fulfill its prior commitment to eliminate the funding gap for children attending First Nations schools.”
Morgan goes on to say: “While we wholeheartedly agree with the members of the Opposition that the federal government needs to eliminate the funding gap, we find it irresponsible of the NDP to call for our government to provide the funding now and simply bill the federal government later – particularly since the NDP has not been able to provide a cost estimate for what they expect it would cost the people of Saskatchewan (our own estimate is that this would cost at least $67.7 million annually).”