A report released by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) on Thursday says the Harper Conservatives are failing BC’s First Nation children and on-reserve schools.
The report, titled First Nations School Infrastructure Funding Requirements: British Columbia, shows that the schools are severely underfunded. And, they’re much older than B.C. public schools.
“Baseline federal funding for First Nations school infrastructure in British Columbia is $26 million. The PBO estimates that sustaining the current footprint of First Nations school infrastructure in British Columbia would require $39 million in 2013-14,” the report says.
That translates into a shortfall of $13 million annually in capital infrastructure investment.
NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic and Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder requested the report as a follow-up to the PBO’s 2009 study, which revealed that “more than 500 reserve schools in the country are under-funded by nearly $200 million annually”, according to The Canadian Press.
“It’s shameful, because we are talking about the next generation of kids here and the education they need to succeed,” said Crowder in a press release. “We are talking about the basic tool for education – a safe, modern school. The PBO said that too often the condition of the schools is only fair and there is no long-term capital planning to replace them as needed based on population and safety.”
Crowder told The Canadian Press: ”I think it’s frustrating. The government continues to deny that there are gaps in funding, and now we’ve got this evidence that once again reaffirms there is a difference to what kids can have access to on reserve versus off reserve.”
According to Crowder’s statement:
The PBO report also revealed that on-reserve schools in BC are on average five years older than those funded by the province, and that an additional $4.5 million each year would be needed to bring First Nation schools up to the same standard and age.
“Conservatives keeps saying there’s no funding gap,” added Crowder. “But this report, based on government data, proves otherwise.”
“I was very concerned by the PBO’s 2009 report. The one published today confirms that the situation can only worsen with time without a change in priorities. The federal government must propose a long-term plan to correct this injustice, which penalizes First Nations children.”
The report concludes: “The future funding requirement is anticipated to increase in real terms at the annual rate of student population growth (1.3 per cent), reaching $47 million in 2028-29. … Additional investments of $4 million per year could reduce the average age of First Nations school infrastructure to that of provincially-administered schools, similar in size and location, by 2028-29.”