I appeared before this committee in 1997 to talk about Bill C-30, which later became the Mi'kmaq Education Act.
In our community, we set the priorities in education. We have an education constitution, and it's very simple. It sets out some very basic principles in that constitution. One of those principles is that we will not employ anyone under the age of eighteen between the hours of nine o'clock and 3:30 every single day, because those students should be in school. So even within our own education constitution, we've made education for young people the most basic priority. At the same time, since we now control the envelope of funding for education, we can choose to spend less money in some areas and more money in education, and we have done that.
I'm happy to say that when I joined the band in 1997, the single biggest expenditure in our community was for social.... It's a sad commentary, but also a very real one for first nations in this country. Currently, the largest program dollar expenditure in our community is for education. It's a sign of a healthy, forward-thinking community when they spend more money on education than they do on social issues. So that's one of our commitments. We don't receive more money for education than for social things in our community, but we prioritize our own needs in our own community and make it a priority and spend it.
We currently have an education system that spans K to three. We start our preschool at three years old, and we support students right up until university.
One of the things we don't have funding for, that we'd like to do but are unable to do at this point, is to provide some upgrading access for our students so that when we send them to university as mature students, if there are mature students out there, they have the skills. I don't want to send someone to a post-secondary institution when I'm setting them up for failure. It would be categorically wrong of me to do that. So we need funding to have pre-access programs. We need funding for upgrading so the students can be much better prepared.
At the high school level, as I said earlier, we invest the money that our community receives, and we invest some of our own money. And we have a stronger support network for our students going to elementary and secondary school. So we do that.
One of the things we've done differently is that I have three workers for 247 students on our nominal roll. I have a high school worker, because there are certain unique characteristics of a high school--I was a high school teacher. Every community needs one worker in the high school, because it's just too big a job to spread a person over six different schools. High school students are at the critical juncture in their lives when they need to have the guidance of an elder on a daily basis. We have one student support worker at the elementary level and one at the junior high level, all the way through our system.