Alberni’s Haahuupayak to benefit from new school funding model

A new agreement with on reserve schools and the federal and provincial governments could benefit Haahuupayak School in Alberni.

Haahuupayak Grade 3-4 teacher Jessicca Neilsen walks students through a composition exercise. The teachers are paid on average 15 per cent less than teachers in School District 70. That could change after a new funding agreement was signed with government and  on-reserve schools on Jan. 27.

Haahuupayak Grade 3-4 teacher Jessicca Neilsen walks students through a composition exercise. The teachers are paid on average 15 per cent less than teachers in School District 70. That could change after a new funding agreement was signed with government and on-reserve schools on Jan. 27.

Haahuupayak School could receive equal funding to Alberni Valley public schools as a result of a new agreement with the federal and provincial governments, said Haahuupayak School board member Martin Watts.

The B.C. First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) along with the federal and provincial governments announced the Tripartite Education Framework Agreement on Jan. 27.

The agreement equalizes per pupil funding, which at on-reserve schools was 25 per cent less on average than that of public schools in School District 70.

The agreement also promises $15 million annually to support on-reserve schools and FNESC, and  includes funding that mainstream schools receive for technology.

Standards have also been set out that will allow First Nations students to transfer between First Nations and mainstream schools at accepted achievement levels without academic penalty.

The agreement impacts 131 on-reserve schools in B.C. and takes effect September 2012.

Haahuupayak school is located on lands in the Tseshaht First Nation and run by an independent society.

“Our schools were vastly under-funded and a lot of years of work went into this new agreement,” Watts said.

There are 100 students enrolled this year: 61 off reserve and 39 on reserve.

Funding for students off reserve is underwritten by the province.

For on-reserve students, the school receives its funding from the Tseshaht First Nation after it is disbursed from the federal government to the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council.

A working group of representatives from the tribe and school has been struck to work out how the new indexed arrangement will work.

The Tseshaht have until sometime in March to support the initiative via band council resolution.

“We’ve got a better line of communication and more transparency with the band now,” Watts said.

Accessing new school resources and updating technology are other bonuses but the biggest impact could be on teacher’s salaries, which at Haahuupayak are up to 15 per cent less than those of their counterparts in the district.

“We’ll be better able to retain teachers now,” Watts said.

reporter@albernivalleynews.com