OTTAWA — Aboriginal Affairs is fighting back against its critics, releasing new calculations that show native students receive just as much, if not more, funding as non-aboriginals for schooling.
The federal government has been under fire from aboriginal and human rights groups and opposition critics for underfunding First Nations education.
Last year, all parties agreed to fix the problem and committed to ending inequalities between native and non-native primary and secondary school systems.
But in a backgrounder attached to a Tuesday announcement on building new schools, government officials attached a raft of calculations that suggest student funding is already at par.
Aboriginal Affairs says it spent an average of $13,542 for each student in the 2010-2011 school year — not including money for infrastructure and building maintenance.
The amounts vary by province. First Nations kids in the Atlantic provinces get $14,505 apiece, while Saskatchewan students get $12,159, the government research says.
That compares to a national per-student average of $10,439 in 2009, according to Statistics Canada.
But it contradicts data from the AFN that shows First Nations receive about $7,101 for each student, on average.
Ottawa and the Assembly of First Nations have both made education a top priority, working together to strike a plan for better funding and new governance.
The federal budget included $275 million for school infrastructure and early literacy.
Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan said Tuesday that part of that money will go towards building three new schools on reserves this year and renovating five others in the future.