FREDERICTON (CNB) - An agreement in principle for the repayment of tuition arrears between New Brunswick and Kingsclear First Nation was signed today by Ed Doherty, minister responsible for the Aboriginal Affairs Secretariat, and Paul Tomer, chief of the Kingsclear First Nation.

"The impact and importance of a quality education cannot be overlooked, as education is the foundation to increasing the quality of life for First Nations students," Doherty said. "This agreement in principle is the first step in bringing many benefits and re-investments in the education system that will help move our province towards self-sufficiency and offer a brighter future for First Nations children."

Under the Tuition Arrears Repayment Agreement, Kingsclear will repay all the tuition owing to the province. In turn, the province will re-invest 50 per cent of tuition payments into the school system, to be jointly administered by Kingsclear and School District 18 for enhanced programs and services.

"This agreement is the beginning of the development of a better education system for our children," Tomer said. "By working in partnership, we will be able to introduce measures that can truly make a difference and improve the educational experience of our students."

This agreement will enable Kingsclear to identify specific areas that will help its students to reach their full learning potential. The resulting enhanced programs and services agreements will be developed through discussions between Kingsclear and the Department of Education. The provincial government is negotiating similar agreements with other First Nations.

"By investing 50 per cent of the tuition paid by Kingsclear into the public education system, we will be able to make New Brunswick the place to be for innovative, quality education for First Nations children," Doherty said.