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A First Nations Funding Model

In accordance with its mandate from Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) Chiefs-in-Assembly, MFNERC has worked to support First Nations control of First Nations education.

Adequate, predictable, and sustainable funding for education has been one of the top priorities for First Nations since Wahbung in 1971 and community-level discussions through the AMC self-government process in the 1990s. In 2016, the federal government announced an increase in funding to meet immediate needs and education transformation for First Nations education.

Adequate and equitable funding for our students is essential for success in education. To address this, MFNERC has supported the development of a draft First Nations Education Funding Model which respects First Nations control and treaty and inherent rights.

Gerald Farthing, former deputy minister for Manitoba Education, and Steve Power, former director of the School’s Finance Branch for Manitoba Education, are working closely with MFNERC and First Nations education directors to develop this funding model. Together, these consultants bring close to 50 years of combined experience in the area of educational funding.

Their research is built on the earlier studies on funding models from 2012 to 2017 by Steve Power and the late Sheron Fiddler, a former education director for Peguis First Nation, Garden Hill First Nation, and Keeseekowenin Ojibway Nation.

“We are trying to help devise a funding arrangement or model to take to the federal government that adequately and equitably funds First Nations schools,” says Farthing.

“Our real task right now is to develop a model that modifies and adapts the provincial model to better recognize and meet First Nations student needs,” adds Power.

Both Farthing and Power are in regular dialogue with MFNERC staff, First Nations directors of education, the AMC Chiefs Committee on Education, MFNERC Systems and Funding Working Group, and other working groups to explore and address funding gaps within First Nations schools in our communities.

“What we’ve tried to do is to hear what people have been saying and make sure that it’s reflected in the work we do,” Farthing says.

Since the model must recognize the diversity within First Nations while addressing specific funding issues, several factors are being explored in the development of this funding model including student population, size of the schools, geographic location, isolation/remoteness, and other factors.

Having worked with First Nations schools in the past, our consultants are aware of the importance of creating a funding model that addresses quality education by building on a foundation of First Nations languages and traditions and through the inclusion of knowledge from Elders and Knowledge Keepers and traditional ways of knowing.

“One of the principles of the model that we have been developing is that it will calculate a certain amount of money based on circumstances, but the First Nation itself will decide how that money will be spent. Local control is very important,” says Power.

This funding model is expected to provide stability and predictability for First Nations to undertake long-term planning and flexibility to address unexpected costs. The model aims to secure sufficient funding to address every First Nation’s unique needs, using a more simplified processes.

The next steps will be for MFNERC and AMC to meet with the Department of Indigenous Services Canada to finalize a new Regional Education Funding Agreement and Funding Model which provides enhanced levels of funing for First Nations education in Manitoba.

MFNERC would like to acknowledge and thank the late Sheron Fiddler, who made significant contributions to the development of the funding model, before she passed away in August 2017.