Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chairman Announces Comprehensive Native Education Bill

For those that have not heard, Sen. Tester will introduce a comprehensive Native Education bill soon. We will keep you posted as this progresses.  A message from NIEA on Tester’s announcement:

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Jon Tester (D-MT) joined national Native education stakeholders at the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) 2014 Convention and Trade Show to substantiate his support for Native students by announcing a soon-to-be released comprehensive Native education bill. Although Chairman Tester said the draft language was not yet ready for release, NIEA President Pamela Agoyo applauded the announcement:

We are excited and appreciative Chairman Tester continues to put Native students first. After his Committee’s 2014 Native education hearing series, his attendance in Anchorage at our 2014 Annual Convention displays his steadfast dedication to our students and the programs that serve them. NIEA has been working with the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to ensure the bill includes language that will most effectively serve all Native students – American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian. We look forward to seeing a discussion draft released in the coming weeks.  

NIEA had played an instrumental role moving comprehensive Native education legislation in previous congressional sessions through priorities created under membership resolutions and listening sessions. Through those priorities and a 2014 congressional record formed through this summer’s hearing series, NIEA anticipates the bill to address many prerogatives of our membership.

In his statement, Chairman Tester also announced his desire to address early childhood education and the need to increase efficiency in services to tribes by streamlining federal grant application processes. His bill is expected to include a demonstration block grant for early childhood education and development that would assist tribes affected by duplicative reporting requirements in order to make available more funding to address the local needs of Native-serving programs.

In addition to providing tribes greater control over early education funds, Chairman Tester’s bill is also expected to support better data systems for tracking Native student success rates, as well as hold organizations, people, and systems accountable. It will do this by providing tribes and schools with the information they need to make appropriate assessments.

The Senior Senator from Montana also stated that the bill is expected to create new opportunities to help recruit and maintain talented teachers in Native communities – and incentivize more students from those Native communities to enter the field of education and return home to teach future Native generations.

Chairman Tester also thanked NIEA and our membership for our continued support of his Native language immersion legislation – Senate Bill 1948, the Native Language Immersion Student Achievement Act, which passed out of Committee this summer. NIEA recently sent joint organizational letters with more than 25 signatories in support of the bi-partisan legislation and has been working with Senator Tester’s office and co-sponsors to put the legislation on the Senate’s calendar after the mid-term elections. NIEA, founded in 1969, is the most inclusive Native organization in the country-representing Native students, educators, families, communities, and tribes.

NIEA’s mission is to advance comprehensive educational opportunities for all American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians throughout the United States. From communities in Hawaii, to tribal reservations  across the continental U.S., to villages in Alaska and urban communities in major cities, NIEA has the most reach of any Native education organization in the country.

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