Senate Committee on Indian Affairs holds legislative hearing on education bills

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***LEGISLATIVE ALERT***

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs holds legislative hearing on education bills

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held a hearing on four education bills that would have an impact on early childhood programs, elementary and secondary schools, and tribal colleges serving Navajo students.

The following witnesses provided testimony and answered questions as part of the hearing: Acting Assistant Secretary Larry Roberts, Arizona State Senator Carlyle Begay, National Indian Education President Patricia Whitefoot, and Salish Kootenai College President Sandra Boham. 

Tribal Early Childhood, education, and Related Services Integration Act of 2015

  • S 2304 - A bill to provide for tribal demonstration projects for the integration of early childhood development, education, including Native language and culture, and related services and for evaluation of those demonstration projects. The bill would allow tribes that operate multiple federal early childhood grants to maximize the impact of grant dollars through implementation of unified early childhood services delivery plans. In addition, it includes provisions to reduce duplicative bureaucratic reporting requirement, develop early childhood education infrastructure, and extend federal teacher loan forgiveness programs to early childhood educators.

Safe Academic Facilities and Environments for Tribal Youth (SAFETY) Act

  • S 2468 - A bill to require the secretary of the Interior to carry out a 5-yer demonstration program to provide grants to eligible Indian tribes for the construction of tribal schools, and for other purposes. The bill addresses the infrastructure and facility needs of all schools that serve tribal communities—BIE schools, Impact Aid schools, and TCUs—by providing funding to upgrade classrooms, teacher housing, college dormitories, STEM labs, and vocational facilities. Additionally, it requires the Department of the Interior to develop a detailed plan to bring all BIE school facilities to an acceptable condition within 10 years.

Reforming American Indian Standards of Education Act of 2016

  • S 2580 - A bill to establish the Indian Education Agency to streamline the administration of Indian education, and for other purposes. The bill would shift to the current BIE system to an independent agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior. A politically appointed director would lead the new Indian Education Agency, supported by an assistant director for education curriculum and assistant director of facilities management.

Native American Education Opportunity Act

  • S 2711 - A bill to expand opportunity for Native American Children through additional options in education, and for other purposes. The bill would allow K-12 students attending BIE funded schools to participate in pre-existing state administered Education Saving Accounts (ESA). Parents can use ESA funds on private school tuition, online courses, textbooks, and tutoring services. Arizona State Senator Carlyle Begay has helped advance this bill and testified on its behalf at this hearing.

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