Francophone programs in the public education system should receive the same funding per student as those under Francophone school boards.
That issue is one of the ongoing concerns of the Ad-hoc Committee, which consists of representatives from École Routhier School, École Vanier School, High Prairie School Division No. 48 (HPSD), and members at large.
Federal funding is supplied to all schools which provide Francophone education, based on a per pupil count. Our students are part of that count, but we dont understand the logic in this when we are only receiving $6,200 per pupil compared to the $14,300 per pupil at Héritage, says Marco Gervais, chairman of the HPSD.
Section 23 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms states: Citizens of Canada whose first language learned and still understood is that of English or French, or; who have received their primary school instruction in English or French, have the right to have their children receive primary and secondary school instruction in that language in that province.
Premier Ralph Klein and Education Minister Lyle Oberg have stated their support to these rights in responding to recent letters written to them by representatives of the Ad-hoc Committee.
Although support to minority education rights has been stated by the Premier and Education Minister, the HPSD still feels their rights to equal funding arent being satisfied.
Since the Francophone program evolved and the government allowed an increase in French language instruction, a dual track system was established where Francophone and Anglophone students could receive instruction in their respective tongue under the same roof.
Routhier and GP Vanier schools have offered this dual track system for years, as history demonstrates.
With a total of 292 Francophone students in these two schools together, compared to 196 students at École Héritage, the two schools (Routhier and GP Vanier) serve the majority of Francophone students in this region.
According to a letter written by former Minister of Education Gary Mar, Francophone Regional Authorities receive additional funding from the federal government to support Francophone programs. This funding is not available to public school boards in those areas of the province where Francophone Regional Authorities operate because the public school boards are not specifically mandated to offer Francophone programs.
This means that if HPSD, a public school board, chooses to offer French language programs, then it must utilize funds out of its regular instructional grants.
According to Gervais, the Francophone authority and the HPSD operate under the same education guidelines. Students in grades 3 and 6 write the same achievement tests. The amount of time spent on French is the same. English is introduced to students in Grade 3. Junior High courses are the same. Similar to the Francophone authority, HPSD must purchase and update French supplies, such as textbooks and library books, which are essential when educating these students in French.
So why is the funding per student different?
This is a question that has been asked for a long time, but the Ad-hoc Committee feels the answer has never been clear and straightforward.
In response to a recent letter written by Gervais, Dr. Oberg sent Gervais a copy of the Provision of Alternative French Language Programs by Public and Separate School Boards.
One question asked in the provision is Will parents and administrators of the students in alternative programs have any input into Francophone education programs? According to the provision the answer is, Advisory and consultative mechanisms exist to permit the French Language Services Branch to meet the needs of three groups of clientele Francophone program students, French immersion program students and French as a second language program students. It is not planned that a fourth mechanism for alternative French language programs will be created, as these programs are essentially the same as the Francophone programs.
The Ad-hoc Committee was very pleased to finally hear that French programs offered at Routhier and GP Vanier are considered Francophone, and in response, wrote a letter of appreciation. (To read the letter, see the Nov. 22, 2000 issue of Spotlight).
Now that the French programs at École Routhier School and GP Vanier School have been recognized as Francophone, the question still remains, however, as to when their equal rights will be respected regarding how Francophone funding will be disbursed.