The New Democrats are pressuring the provincial government to lobby for equal funding of education.
It’s been well-documented that on-reserve education is well below that of off-reserve.
“We’ve long known that First Nations children receive significantly less funding for education than those living off-reserve,” said NDP Leader Ryan Meili. “But a child at Goose Lake Primary School who is struggling and needs a little extra attention can’t expect the same services a child at Granville Elementary can.”
In 2016, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated the funding gap to be $665 million, despite Ottawa pledging $2.6 billion over five years in the 2016 budget for First Nations education.
Saskatchewan’s advocate for children and youth sharply criticized the provincial government, saying it needs to prioritize First Nations and Métis education outcomes. In his annual report, Corey O’Soup says graduation rates for Indigenous children last year was 42.3 per cent, up just over one per cent from 2016. Non-Indigenous graduation rates in 2017 was over 85 per cent.
“I believe this is unacceptable, and we must do something about it,” said O’Soup.
The premier says the province is trying to close the gap.
“We have made great strides across this province to ensure we are increasing our on-time grad rates, in communities across this province, First Nations and non-First Nations,” Premier Scott Moe stated.
However, Meili wants the provincial government to commit to a timeline on increasing funding.
“This is quite simply just the right thing to do, to reach out and equalize that situation and get rid of that funding gap. We hear about ongoing conversations, but we’ve seen no action. Let’s have a timeline,” said Meili. “When will these communities have more than false hope? When will they actually know they will be getting the education they deserve?”
Education Minister Gordon Wyant says he and O’Soup will be sending a joint letter to the federal government, reminding it of its responsibility to First Nations education funding.
“We’ve agreed to work together to continue to advance that conversation with the federal government. We’ll be sending a joint letter to the federal government, reminding them,” said Wyant. “I’m prepared to go to Ottawa to directly have conversations with the minister. We are not ignoring this issue. It’s important for the future of our children in this province.”
(PHOTO: Goose Lake School. Courtesy of educationalliance.ca)