Fontaine said there’s a huge disparity between what public schools receive from provincial governments and what First Nations schools receive.
“It’s at least $2,000 on the average (per year) per student,” he said.Fontaine said much of the funding woes stem from a cap imposed in 1996 that limits funding increases to core services to two per cent per year. The aboriginal leader again expressed his disappointment that most First Nations issues are being left off campaign platforms in the federal election. Many at the protest said funding is not keeping pace with the rising cost of living and does not take into account the booming First Nations population. Treaty 6 Grand Chief Wayne Moonias, who is from Hobbema, Alta., said underfunding leads to “negative impacts." Those impacts, he added, include teachers who are paid up to $25,000 less annually than their colleagues working for the province. Retaining quality teachers and offering “quality programs” are constant challenges, he said, noting that nine teachers left Hobbema over the summer. Other problems include a lower standard of education, leaving students behind those in public schools. Barbara Halliday, a librarian at one of Alberta’s reserve schools, said they are in desperate need of attention and funding. “When we turn on our taps at school, the water that runs out of the tap is brown,” she said. Lillian Gadwa-Crier, a teacher at Kisipatnahk Community School on the Louis Bull First Nation, said something needs to be done. “I hope the government ... realizes that our First Nations children deserve a good quality education as any other child in this province,” she said. Edmonton Conservative MP Laurie Hawn said his party is aware of the problems, but he would not say the reserves aren’t being fairly funded. “This government is very attuned to what’s going on and off the reserves,” he said.