Ontario First Nations use an intervention-based approach to high-cost Special Education, whereby funding is determined by formula. A benefit of this approach is that formal assessments are not required before intervention strategies are introduced. The federal High-Cost Special Education Program (HCSEP) covers services for students whose moderate to profound needs cannot be met through the low-cost allocation included in the Band Operated Funding Formula (BOFF).
Funding for the HCSEP is a targeted allocation, meaning that funding is a full and final allocation that can only be spent on First Nation students who ordinarily reside on reserve and are assessed by an appropriate professional as having moderate to profound special needs not met within existing education programming and services.
The Ontario First Nation Special Education Working Group (OFNSEWG) is a joint technical and advisory body of the Chiefs of Ontario and Indian Affairs established in 2005. The OFNSEWG is mandated by the First Nations Education Coordination Unit (FNECU) to provide recommendations on issues and specific strategies for political review and/or approval for action. OFNSEWG membership includes representation from:
- Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians (AIAI)
- Grand Council Treaty #3 (GCT3)
- Independent First Nations (IFN)
- Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN)
- Union of Ontario Indians (UOI)
- Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada Ontario Region
The OFNSEWG has been mandated through various COO Resolutions to continue to gather data for the development of recommendations on program improvements and reform. Based on these mandates, the OFNSEWG continues to collect and analyze pertinent data and work with First Nation recipients to develop ways to enhance the current funding mechanism (program, formula and funding levels).
Federal Budget 2016 implementation provides a significant increase in HCSEP funding levels from 2016-17 through 2020-21. Resolution 20/16 from June 2016 mandates the OFNSEWG to administer a needs-based process to ensure HCSEP recipients receive adequate funding levels to deliver the required special education services for First Nation students. Further, resolution 27/19 from June 2019 allows First Nations in Ontario to receive their High-Cost Special Education funding through the Interim Funding Formula (IFA) as part of their core education budget. Resolution 27/19 also states that the funding amounts outside of core (IFA) be provided to ensure that no First Nation receives less than the High-Cost special education funding received through the 2017/2018 COO High-Cost Special Education formula.