I really don't want to be political, but I recognize the value of engaging politicians when an organization such as Credenda is in need of intervention when the bureaucrats fail to listen. To be fair to the bureaucrats, they are only implementing the directives that are passed down to them. However, the challenge we face are the many different interpretations that come out of one directive, resulting in varied decisions.
This has lead me to the conclusion that Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) is not an advocate of the First Peoples of our First Nations. Let me explain. Since 2005, Credenda has had an increase in the number of students that have registered with our school for supplementary classes, which they were unable to receive at their local schools. Many of our remote northern schools across Canada are challenged in finding specialized math, science, literacy, and humanities experts. Students from over 40 First Nations in Saskatchewan have attended our classes with 73% receiving high school credits. Compare that to the national average of 39% of our First Nation students getting a high school diploma, these numbers are fantastic.
My natural thought process leads me to believe that when something is successful, you back it, support it, fund it, because in the big picture, these students will go on to post-secondary education and training with success, and will rely less on the system for support. The cost savings are huge. But instead, agencies like AANDC see success as a threat. One AANDC individual made the comment that, "Credenda is too successful," hence they needed to put a cap on the funding otherwise we might grow beyond their means. What an ironic statement. From a strategic planning perspective, as these students pass through a school like Credenda and get their education, a life is changed, transformed for success creating a legacy of hope for the rest of the students in the community to strive forward and learn with purpose. It might take 20 years to change the patterns or the self image that has been created among our youth that we First Peoples are failures, but it will change.
So a First Nation school is "too successful!" I guess we aren't the failures we have been lead to believe we are.
Here are some of the specific challenges that we have been facing. Over the past years, AANDC has been changing the rules. We had a three year agreement which funded all classes. In the second year of our agreement, AANDC decided to develop the Virtual High School Management Regime, which would redesignate our status from a school to a service provider. We were funded as any other school based on nominal roll for the courses we taught, for the staff we hired to teach, and develop curriculum, and the supports we provided. Despite our objections to change the agreement, AANDC unilaterally changed our agreement.
What is important to note that during this time we found the rules changing for calculating our year end reconciliations. In 2011-12, they found reasons to deny us over $200,000. In 2012-13, they have looked at every way possible to deny us another $200,000 plus reconciliation. Already this totals over $400,000 being taken from our budget, putting additional strain on our organization to teach the increasing number of students registering with Credenda. Then this year, because of the newly imposed Virtual High School Management Regime, between September and February, we were disallowed 190 classes because they were classes such as Law, Communications, Journalism, Native Studies, Psychology, and more, because AANDC was only going to pay for math, sciences, and literacy. Every other region in Canada funds all courses, but Saskatchewan decided not to fund them. Those 190 classes translated into over $300,000 in lost funding. Add all those up and we are already at over $700,000 in lost revenues over the last two and a half years. And they have the audacity to tell us that they are concerned about our accumulated debt, when they were the ones to create it. I think we have done amazingly well to stay operational, but something needs to give. We can't keep operating this way.
The people who will lose the most will be our students. It's not fair. More than that it is not right. Not unlike the South African's struggle against apartheid was a struggle for equality. Our First People in Canada are in struggle for equality. Our treaties position us nations, not within a nation, but equal to the nation of Canada. Further to that our students are in a struggle for equitable access to education afforded every other student has the right to access.
So we are engaging with our MP's, MLA's, and our Chief's and Councils for support. I am outlining below our appeal. We are asking everyone who cares about First Nations education to tweet, like on Facebook, share on Linkedin what is happening with us and the four other First Nation online schools in Canada. We need your help, not your pity. We have hope that we can change things, but we can't do it without you.
WHEREAS: Credenda Virtual High School is a provincially accredited online First Nation educational institution with charitable organization status;
AND WHEREAS: Credenda has received approximately $12M in funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) since 2005 as part of the New Paths for Education strategic plan for long term investment in education, which has been showing significant results;
AND WHEREAS: Credenda has offered over 4900 student classes to First Nation students across Saskatchewan since 2005 with an average success rate of 75% (low of 68%, high of 83%);
AND WHEREAS: The proposed First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act, scheduled to be introduced into legislation September 2014, has been delayed until 2016;
AND WHEREAS: based upon the upcoming proposed First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act, AANDC has unilaterally determined to terminate Credenda’s funding agreement as of June 2014 and is subsequently requiring First Nations to pay directly for classes;
AND WHEREAS: No additional funds are being redirected to First Nations to accommodate such costs until after 2016, adding additional costs on top of the shortfall First Nations education is already currently experiencing;
AND WHEREAS: Academic achievement would be impacted negatively creating a wider gap from an already low national graduation rate of 39% among First Nation students (compared to 88% nationally for all students);
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT: Credenda receive continued funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada as per their prior Contribution Funding Agreements (CFA’s) of 2011 - 2013 in order to continue to operate.
AND FURTHER MORE:
WHEREAS: Credenda Virtual High School was first created in 2005 to address the shortage of math, science, and literacy subjects, with accredited, certified teachers able to deliver the necessary courses to northern Saskatchewan First Nations students;
AND WHEREAS: It is abundantly clear the shortfall does not only exist in the maths, sciences, and literacy areas, but in all areas, including the humanities and other core Saskatchewan courses;
AND WHEREAS: The 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 Credenda Contribution Funding Agreements made provision to fund all classes at the Grade 7-12 levels due to the ever existing and increasing need;
AND WHEREAS: The Saskatchewan Regional Office of AANDC unilaterally developed and imposed the VIRTUAL HIGH SCHOOLS MANAGEMENT REGIME for 2013-2014, changing how Credenda was funded and restricting funding to only the maths, sciences, and literacy;
AND WHEREAS: All First Nations students, regardless of where they are located, deserve equitable access to courses and resources to ensure their success as they move forward in life;
AND WHEREAS: AANDC, through various means, funds other virtual high schools across Canada (Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate in Manitoba, Kewaytinook Internet High School in Ontario, SC Cyber in Alberta);
AND WHEREAS: AANDC does not restrict the funding for other virtual high schools to only maths, sciences and literacy classes;
AND WHEREAS: Credenda Virtual High School is a provincially accredited online First Nation school with charitable organization status;
AND WHEREAS: All courses offered by Provincial and First Nations accredited schools are funded without restrictions or exceptions;
AND WHEREAS: To date in 2013-2014, Credenda has offered over 300 classes, without funding, to First Nation students in need of courses that fell outside of the AANDC approved subjects areas;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT: we request that Credenda, as a First Nation school, be funded by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada for ALL classes provided as per prior Contribution Funding Agreements, as the other virtual high schools are funded and as other First Nation and Provincial schools are funded.