Congress Passes the Native American Children’s Safety Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, praised Congress’ passage of S. 184, the Native American Children’s Safety Act. The bill was sponsored by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), with bipartisan support.

S. 184 amends the Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention Act to require background checks before foster care placements are ordered in tribal court proceedings. The bill passed out of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs on Feb. 2, 2015, and passed the full Senate on June 1, 2015. The bill passed the House of Representatives on May 23, 2016.

“Protecting Native children is paramount,” said Barrasso. “Requiring background checks for potential foster care parents of Indian children is just common sense. I want to thank Senator Hoeven for his leadership in introducing this important bill, and I call on the president to sign it into law as soon as possible.”

“Our bill ensures that Native American children living on reservations have all of the same protections when assigned to foster care that children living off the reservation have,” Hoeven said. “The measure requires background checks for all adults living in a foster home, which will help to protect children placed there at an already difficult time in their lives.”

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs schedules meeting and hearing

From Indianz.com, here. Education will be among the top discussion topics.

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs will hold a business meeting and legislative hearing on May 11. Three items are on the agenda for the business meeting. They are:

S.1163, the Native American Languages Reauthorization Act. The bill extends grants awarded under the Esther Martinez Native American Languages Preservation Act from three years to five years. The committee held a hearing on November 18, 2015.
S.2304, the Tribal Early Childhood, Education, and Related Services Integration Act. The bill creates a demonstration project so tribes, tribal education institutions and tribal organizations can develop early childhood education programs. The committee held a hearing on April 6.
S.2739, the Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation Equitable Compensation Act. The bill compensates the Spokane Tribe of Washington for land lost to the Grand Coulee Dam. The committee hasn’t held a hearing on the bill during the 114th Congress but prior versions have been advanced in the past.

The legislative hearing will focus on two bills. They are:

S.2417, the Tribal Veterans Health Care Enhancement Act. The bill authorizes the Indian Health Service to cover the cost of veterans’ copays for services rendered at the Veterans Health Administration.
S.2842, the Johnson-O’Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act. The bill updates the decades-old data that the Bureau of Indian Affairs uses to award grants under the Johnson O’Malley (JOM) program.

The meeting and hearing will take place in Room 628 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

NIEA: ESEA Update, More Action Needed!

Excellent update from NIEA, below.

Native Education Advocates See Major Wins in ESEA Reauthorization Bills  

It has been a busy week for Native education advocates on the Hill! As Congress debated and negotiated the reauthorization of the largest civil rights education bill, the Elementary and Secondary School Act (ESEA), NIEA and it’s members advocated on behalf of the over 350,000 Native public school students to ensure that they are provided with a high-quality academic and culturally relevant education to achieve college and career success. We would like to thank our Native education partners for their continued support and for their efforts in helping ensure Native students succeed.

Student Success Act (HR5) Passed in the House

Student Success Act (SSA) passed through the House on July 8th with a recorded vote of 218 to 213. Twenty-seven Republican congressmen crossed party lines to join House Democrats in voting against HR5 Wednesday night. The SSA is a conservative version of the ESEA rewrite and was introduced by Rep. John Kline (R-MN). This bill favors state and local accountability over federal oversight by eliminating the current national accountability system. This measure would allow states to set their own academic standards and would prohibit federal statutes that mandate, incentivize, or coerce states to adopt Common Core State Standards.

The White House has indicated that it plans to veto the SSA in its current form because, as stated by Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, “instead of supporting the schools and educators that need it most, the bill shifts resources away from them.”

Native education advocates did see an important amendment added to the SSA under Title V entitled “The Federal Government’s Trust Responsibility to American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Education.” The independent title was inserted thanks to strong bipartisan support, which was led by Rep. Don Young (R-AK). The amendment allows local educational agencies and tribes to be eligible for grants which improve education for Native students.

Every Child Achieves Act (S1177) is Being Debated in the Senate

Debate on the Every Child Achieves Act (ECAA) of 2015 began Tuesday, July 7th. In her opening remarks, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee stated, “Today marks the first day of debate on our bipartisan bill to strengthen our education system by reauthorizing the nation’s K-12 education law, the ESEA. This work is a chance to recommit ourselves to the promise of a quality education for every child. And it is an opportunity to finally fix the current law, No Child Left Behind (NCLB).”

The Native-specific provisions in the bill mark a huge victory for American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian education, reflecting years of hard work by tribes and Native education advocates. Some highlights include: Consultation, where states and local educational agencies must engage in meaningful consultation with tribes in the development of state plans for Title I grants, STEP Authorization, where grants are permanently authorized to promote tribal self-determination in order to improve Indian academic achievement, and the Preservation of Section 7131, which authorizes National Research Activities that have been critical to providing data on Indian student achievement.

While the Senate has ended voting for the week, several important amendments for Native education that have passed:

 Amendment to Improve Native American Education (#2085)

The amendment was introduced by Senator Rounds (R-SD) and Senator Udall (D-NM). This amendment calls for inter-agency collaboration between the Department of Interior (DOI) and Department of Education (DOE) to conduct a study of rural and poverty areas of Indian Country to identify:

  • Federal barriers that prevent tribes from implementing applicable policies over one-size fits all regulations dictated from Washington;
  • Recruitment and retention options for teachers and school administrators;
  • Limitations in funding sources and flexibility for such schools; and
  • Strategies on how to increase high school graduation rates.

Title VII Grant Programs for Indian Education Amendment (#2078)  

The amendment was introduced by Senator Tester (D-MT). This amendment restores vital grant programs in the Title VII of the ECAA, which “will help students in Indian Country develop the tools they need to succeed.” Senator Tester continued by saying that “the Senate took a step forward to live up to our moral and trust responsibility to ensure Native American students are getting the education and shot at success they deserve.” This amendment reinstates the following four programs:

  • In – Service Training for Teachers of Indian Children
  • Fellowships for Native Students Pursuing Social Beneficial Degrees
  • Gifted and Talented Programs to Nurture Native Excellence
  • Native Adult Literacy and GED Programs

The following amendments will be presented by Senator Heitkamp (D-ND) next week:

Grants for the Integration of Schools and Mental Health Systems (#2171)

The amendment introduces plans to reinstate and improve access to Mental Health Support Grants by reinstating the Integration Program- which provides five-year grants to States, school districts, and Indian tribes to increase student access to quality mental health care.

Tribal improvements included are:

  • Providing eligibility to Indian tribes or their education agencies, BIE schools, as well as Alaska Native communities;
  • Crisis Intervention and conflict resolution practices, such as those focused on decreasing rates of bullying, teen dating violence, suicide, trauma, and human trafficking;
  • Ensuring linguistically appropriate and culturally competent services;
  • Engage and utilizing expertise provided by institutions of higher education, such as a Tribal College or University, as defined in section 316(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965; and
  • Assurances that tribes and their representatives are consulted and aware of the program and understand their eligibility.

Educational Equity under Land-Grant Status & Smith Lever Act (#2174)

The bipartisan amendment provides parity by allowing Tribal Colleges to compete for Children, Youth and Families at Risk and Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Grants. Co-sponsors of the amendment include Senators Thune (R-SD), Stabenow (D-MI), and Tester (D-MT).

Action Is Still Needed for Native Education

Now more than ever Native students need your support. Reach out to your state’s Senator and ask them to support these important and necessary amendments for Native education. Please contact Dimple Patel (dpatel@niea.org or at (202) 847-0034) with any questions.

  • To find the contact information for your Senator, please click here.

To call the general phone line for the Senate, please call (202) 224-3121 and ask to speak with the Senator from your state.

 

Whether you’re an educator, a student, or invested in increasing educational opportunities for Native students, NIEA members help advocate for better policies. Your  contribution will help us continue to be effective advocates, train educators that work with Native students, and close the achievement gap.  To donate, please click HERE.