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 (email@example.com 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.
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