July 13, 2013

BC Reserve schools face crisis of capital funding, Parliamentary report says

A new 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, underfunding them by $13 million every year.

The report, titled First Nations School Infrastructure Funding Requirements: British Columbia, shows that the schools are not only severely underfunded but also much older than B.C. public schools. It calls for a 50-per-cent increase in capital funding just to keep from crumbling.

Click here to download and read the report in pdf.

“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.

In other words, the federal budget watchdog says that on-reserve schools in BC run short by $13 million every year and can't do things like repair leaky roofs, build new classrooms, or upgrade electrical wiring.

Noticeably, the PBO also said that BC was probably in better shape than reserve schools in other parts of the country.  The report comes while the Harper Conservatives are preparing a new First Nations education act. According to the Globe and Mail "even existing funding for running First Nations schools, achieved through long-negotiated agreements in recent years, may be at risk as the federal government prepares [this] new legislation."

NDP Aboriginal Affairs critic and Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder requested the report as a follow-up to the PBO’s 2009 study, which had already revealed that over 500 reserve schools in the country are under-funded by nearly $200 million annually.

“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 said in a press release.

"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," Crowder said.

With sources from the Canadian Progressive blog.

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