First Nations students will benefit from $3 million in funding for Local Education Agreements (LEAs) with school boards that ensure each First Nation is directly involved in decisions about how their children are educated, with the ultimate goal of improving student outcomes.
The funding will be used to negotiate or renew agreements between local First Nations and public school districts. Each agreement is negotiated locally with the goal of reflecting the unique priorities of individual First Nations. Topics of negotiation can include funding, transportation, sharing information and data, culture and language, as well as other local priorities.
“LEAs serve as a road map for First Nations and their local school boards to work together, respectfully and strategically, to achieve better education results for our First Nations students in public schools,” said Tyrone McNeil, president, First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC). “LEAs set out clear expectations and responsibilities, and those are what First Nations have long been calling for in order to create a more effective and more accountable education system for our children.”
These local agreements help improve First Nations’ student achievement, resulting in better grades, increased Dogwood completion rates and smoother transitions to post-secondary education, training or employment. Currently, 146 First Nations communities either have an expiring agreement or are without an agreement. This funding will help more First Nations and school districts ensure there are effective agreements in place.
“Education is key to true and lasting reconciliation, and these agreements ensure First Nations students are confident in their self-identity, in their knowledge of themselves, their families, their communities, their traditional values, languages and cultures,” said Rob Fleming, B.C.’s Minister of Education. “Having boards of education work directly with First Nations to set priorities is incredibly important for empowering First Nations students to excel and pursue their passions.”
The $3-million grants are part of B.C.’s shared commitment to the B.C. Tripartite Education Agreement (BCTEA) between FNESC, the Province and the Government of Canada. The BCTEA brings more than $100 million in new federal funding over five years to support First Nations education. British Columbia is leading the way as the only jurisdiction in the country with this kind of partnership agreement, and it benefits all First Nations students, whether they live on- or off-reserve.
“Our government is proud to work with the Education Steering Committee and the Government of British Columbia under the agreement to help First Nations children throughout the province access quality education consistent with their unique needs, experiences, beliefs and values,” said the Honourable Seamus O’Regan, federal Minister of Indigenous Services. “Co-development with First Nations of a strong, effective and inclusive educational system for British Columbia’s more than 12,000 First Nations students is essential to advancing reconciliation and ensuring student success.”
“This is an important investment that ensures First Nations communities decide what works best in the classroom for students, whether that’s new language programs, cultural studies or seeing their heritage reflected in the lessons,” said Scott Fraser, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “Access to a meaningful, relevant learning environment is more likely to result in higher achievement and support students to achieve their academic goals.”
The process of negotiating and implementing local agreements helps to build relationships and contributes to reconciliation. While each agreement is unique between a local First Nation and a school district, goals can include the following:
- formalizing local First Nations community involvement in education decisions;
- monitoring and sharing information about First Nations’ student progress and addressing any barriers that might be getting in the way of their achievement;
- strengthening First Nations culture, perspectives and languages in schools; and
- ensuring each First Nations student has the classroom support they need.
Over the past several years, FNESC has developed a variety of tools to support First Nations to negotiate and implement effective agreements. Currently, the BCTEA partners are collaborating to create shared guidelines, a provincial LEA template and continued support for First Nations and school districts with negotiation and implementation of each agreement.
The Province is committed to implementing all the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the Draft 10 Principles that Guide the Province of British Columbia’s Relationship with Indigenous Peoples.
Sheila Malcolmson, MLA for Nanaimo –
“Having First Nations involved in educational decision-making at the local level is an important step toward reconciliation. I know that in Nanaimo, School District 68 and local First Nations have already accomplished a lot together. This funding will allow my community and school districts across the province to further break down educational barriers and empower Indigenous students.”
Erin Burnley, Grade 12 student, Nanaimo District Secondary school –
“As students, it is our responsibility to not only understand Indigenous history in Canada, but also how Indigenous peoples are still affected to this day. The problems may not be solved in our parents' generation, which is why it is important for students to lead this change. Having Aboriginal education and local partnerships included in the curriculum helps to develop understanding and empathy, and that is the basis on how we can build important discussions in the classroom.”
- The $3-million grants for LEAs will be distributed as follows:
- $1.5 million for First Nations and $1 million for school districts to pay for administrative and legal costs associated with negotiating agreements.
- $500,000 for the BC Education Marketplace and the Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium to help find qualified negotiators, consultants and mediators, and to ensure consistency in approaches to negotiation.
- LEAs have been used since the 1990s, but they have evolved from a tuition agreement into a tool for building strong partnerships between a local First Nation and a school district.
- LEAs differ significantly from Aboriginal Enhancement Agreements as LEAs apply to on-reserve students for the purchase of programs and services by First Nations.
- School boards may need to negotiate or renew several agreements if the district is within the territory of more than one First Nation.
- The BCTEA includes $100 million in new investments over five years ($20 million a year) from the Government of Canada, primarily to support First Nations schools, language and culture, adult education, transportation and educational services.
Local Education Agreements: http://www.fnesc.ca/lea/
The BC Tripartite Education Agreement: http://www.fnesc.ca/bctea/