Education agreements can apply to First Nations students (a) living on-reserve and attending a Board school off-reserve and (b) students living off-reserve but attending a First Nation school. In both cases, the fees that a provincial Board can accept or pay for core educational services are set by the Education Act. The base fees roughly equal the funding provided to that Board on a per-student basis by the province.
Special education fees
Additional special education fees can be negotiated. However, those fees are capped and subject to stringent eligibility criteria. For example, additional special education fees for support staff can only be charged where a student requires two or more full time support persons (or equivalent). A Board seeking additional special education fees must explain how those fees would be eligible under provincial criteria for special education staff and equipment.1
An education agreement is required for these additional special education fees to be owed. First Nations may want to include these fees in an agreement to help them secure other commitments in the education agreement and to ensure that their students receive the support they need.
Paying for “extras”
First Nations cannot be asked by Boards to pay more than the fees set out in the Education Act for core educational services. However, First Nations may pay for extra services that go above and beyond what would be provided to a resident pupil of the Board. This can be set out in an education agreement.
Insufficient funding for First Nations
The funding provided to First Nations to enroll students living off-reserve is insufficient. The funding amounts are set by Ontario’s Education Act and are based on the costs applicable to provincial schools, not First Nation schools. However, costs are almost always higher for First Nations schools because they are generally smaller, more remote, face dis-economies of scale, face greater needs, do not receive services from the Ministry of Education, need to provide Indigenous language and cultural instruction, and for other reasons. The Ontario Ministry of Education needs to make changes to resolve this.