Native American education is devastated by sequester cuts

8 Dec

The University of Minnesota posted Brief History of American Indian Education:

There are many research studies that support the need for transition strategies for American Indian students. In 1990, among those in the population 25 years and older, 66% of American Indians had completed high school, compared to 75% of the total U.S. population; 9% had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 20% of the total U.S. population; and 3% held graduate or professional degrees, compared to 7% of the total U. S. population (Pavel, et al., 1993). In 1992, the dropout rate for American Indians was 56% and 46% for Alaskan Natives (Cahape & Howley, 1992). In 2000, in the state of Minnesota, where this curriculum was developed and piloted, the statewide high school graduation rate for American Indians was 42.6% compared with 82.8% for Caucasian students; the high school dropout rate for American Indian students in Minnesota in that same year was 34.4% compared to 9.2% for Caucasian students.
There are a multitude of reasons for these statistics. The status of American Indian student achievement has its roots in history. Trainers and students must be aware of the historical impact on the state of American Indian education today. While there may have been collaboration in some communities, federal policies did not support cooperation on a national level. Federal policies for American Indian cultural assimilation were implemented after policies of extermination and removal were set aside. Indeed, an industry of assimilation was supported with federal and faith-based resources, targeting the children of American Indian nations in particular.
One historical occurrence that has had long lasting and far-reaching impact on the education of American Indian people was the formation of the American Indian boarding school. The American Indian boarding school, as an institution of assimilation, was designed to suppress the culture, language, and spirituality of American Indian nations throughout the United States. Such institutions were built and operated throughout the country, controlled by non-American Indian government agents and churches. During the late 1800’s and into the mid-1900’s, boarding school attendance was mandated. Thus, from the age of 5 through 18, American Indian children were removed from their families, for month or years at a time, and placed in the boarding school where a harsh indoctrination occurred. A systematic suppression of American Indian culture occurred during this era, which included the banning of American Indian spiritual practices and the speaking of native language, all of which held severe punitive repercussions.
The Indian boarding school served as a means to assimilate American Indian children and to train American Indian students as laborers. For the most part, the level of education and training afforded American Indian students prepared them for menial vocations. As a result, most American Indian students today do not have several generations of professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, or bankers to emulate. Today, it is often the first or second generation of the American Indian professional that is being encountered, not because of cultural inferiority or academic indifference, but because of the lack of a dignified, humane system of education. Indeed, many of the psycho-social ills that persist in American Indian communities today can be traced to the boarding school era and the systematic enforcement of child maltreatment. While not as prevalent, the American Indian boarding school still exists, although attendance is voluntary. Most schools now work closely with surrounding American Indian tribes, employing tribal members as staff and reflecting the culture of American Indian students as part of its educational programming.
A summary of additional key events in the history of American Indian contact with the U.S. systems of government and education can by found on page 9 of the Expanding the Circle curriculum for review and reference. Despite these historical factors, American Indian tribes throughout the United States have maintained their culture, language, and spirituality. This chapter in American history is seldom discussed or presented.
Cahape, P. & Howley, C.B. (Eds.). (1992). Indian Nations at risk: Listening to the people. (Contract No. RI-88-062016). Charleston, WV. ERIC Clearinghouse on Rural Education and Small Schools.
Pavel, D.M. & Padilla, R.V. (1993). American Indian & Alaska Native postsecondary departure: An example of assessing a mainstream model using national longitudinal data. Journal of American Indian Education, 32, (2), 1-19.
Curriculum Survey
ETC Bibliography
Web Resources
Brief History of American Indian Education

Native education is being held hostage by the budget deadlock in Congress.

Alyson Klein and Lesli A. Maxwell reported in the Education Week article, Federal Cuts Take a Toll on Native Americans’ Schools: Sequestration’s impact is disproportionate:

Perhaps no other single group of students has been as walloped by sequestration—the biggest cuts to federal education spending in history—as Native American children.
While the impact of the 5 percent across-the-board cuts has been almost invisible in many of the nation’s school districts, it’s hard to miss at schools that serve a high percentage of American Indian students, such as Loneman School on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
The K-8 school laid off 12 staff members, about 20 percent of its workforce, before the current academic year began in August. Those cuts included three of six middle school teachers, says Principal Charles Cuny Jr.
And 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students, who would usually move from classroom to classroom and have more than one teacher, are staying in one room all day with the same teacher for all subjects.
“It’s hard for the older kids to be stuck in one classroom all day,” says Melissa Blacksmith, Loneman’s director of gifted and talented education. “They don’t like being like the younger students. We’ve told them that we had no choice. This is strictly a budget decision.”
Of 161 Indian-lands districts that receive federal Impact Aid, 144 cut spending for the 2013-14 school year, according to a survey by the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools. The most common reductions were in noninstructional staff, maintenance and new purchases, and teachers’ professional development.
Overall, more than 90 percent of Native American children and youths attend regular public schools, on and off reservations, while most of the rest are enrolled in schools that are either operated by the federal Bureau of Indian Education or by tribes under contracts with the agency. And the schools that serve Native students tend to be among the most dependent on federal funding—and, therefore, most vulnerable to the sequestration cuts, which affect only federal aid.
Typically, the federal government kicks in less than 10 percent of the cost of educating K-12 students. But in some districts that serve a large Native American population, that share can be as high as 80 percent
Seventy-six of the top 100 districts that rely most heavily on federal funding are districts that receive Impact Aid to help make up for tax revenue lost because of a nearby Indian reservation or lands, according to an analysis of 2010 data from the National Center for Education Statistics by the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools, or NAFIS.
In addition, 90 percent of Native American students go to schools that get federal Title I funds, according to the National Indian Education Association, an advocacy group in Washington. The Title I program—a roughly $14.5 billion pot of money designed to help educate the nation’s poorest children—lost $727 million this school year because of sequestration.
“These are the students that face the most challenges” nationwide, says Larry Ouimette, the superintendent of the Lac du Flambeau district in northern Wisconsin, which enrolls 525 children, more than 95 percent of whom are Native American.
“We’re taking money away from kids who have experienced generational poverty. … We can make a difference,” Mr. Ouimette says, “and just as we’re starting to take the right steps, we’re getting the rug pulled out from under us….”
The local tribe—the Lac du Flambeau Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa—has helped make up for the loss by sending elders and other volunteers to instruct students in language and culture. (Chippewa is another word for Ojibwe.)
There have been other reductions, too. The district, which gets roughly 40 percent of its $10 million budget from the federal government, cut two teaching positions, including the language teacher, from a teaching staff of 60 and asked employees to pick up a greater share of their health-care costs. It also put off plans to upgrade its computers, meaning some students must work with 7-year-old machines….
Those kinds of tough decisions are typical, says Jocelyn Bissonnette, the director of government relations for NAFIS. The Washington-based organization surveyed 161 Indian-lands districts that receive Impact Aid. Of that number, 144, or nearly 90 percent, had made cuts in the 2013-14 school year. More than half—78—put off maintenance and purchases and 56 slashed instructional positions.
Sequestration has also squeezed the Bureau of Indian Education, housed in the U.S. Department of the Interior. The BIE, which operates 183 schools, lost $48 million to sequestration out of a budget of some $380 million, says Charles M. Roessel, the bureau’s acting director.
He says the sequester cuts have led to reductions in the teaching force and have caused some schools to shrink programs, including tutoring. But he was unable to list specific cuts, including the number of teaching jobs eliminated, and could only give one example of a cut: a reduction to a tutoring program for Navajo students.
The BIE has been repeatedly chided by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Congress’ investigative arm, for its poor fiscal and academic management of schools, most recently in a report released in September.
It remains unclear whether Congress will halt—or make changes to—sequestration, which is slated to stay in place for a decade unless lawmakers act. A joint House-Senate panel charged with making long-range budget decisions is expected to release its recommendations on a course of action in mid-December. Education advocates aren’t optimistic the committee will call for getting rid of the cuts altogether.
Some districts that serve a large numbers of American Indian students aren’t sure they’ll be able to cope with another year of cuts….
Where the Cuts Are
Of 161 Indian-lands districts that receive federal Impact Aid, 144 cut spending for the 2013-14 school year, according to a survey by the National Association of Federally Impacted Schools. The most common reductions were in noninstructional staff, maintenance and new purchases, and teachers’ professional development.

SOURCE: National Association of Federally Impacted Schools
See, Education in Indian Country: Obstacles and Opportunities


ONE OF the most serious problems confronting Native American leaders is that Native Americans as a whole have achieved one of the lowest educational levels among all ethnic groups and are not doing well while attending school. For example, it is reported that,
New Mexico can serve as a microcosm of the condition of Native Americans in the United States as a whole . . . Thirty-two percent of young Native Americans aged 16 to 19 were neither working nor attending school. Less than half of Native Americans older than 25, in fact, had completed high school, compared to more than three-fifths of New Mexico’s Blacks and almost three-fourths of whites. Native Americans, indeed, were the only racial/ethnic group in the state whose median level of education was below high school graduation. (Currie & Skolnick, 1984:187)
This poverty of educational achievement within the Native American sector might very well be the root of their over-all social problems in a modem industrial society.


Journal of American Indian Education
Volume 25 Number 1
October 1985
Dr. Ruey-Lin Lin, Associate Professor of Sociology, Eastern Montana College

Not much has changed since 1985 and the Sequester made things worse.

Kelsey Sheehey reported in the U.S. News article, Graduation Rates Dropping Among Native American Students: Latino and black students are gaining ground, but American Indians are slipping, a new report shows:

Major gains among black and Latino students pushed the nation’s high school graduation rates to near record levels. Native American students, however, are not enjoying the same boom.
Instead, graduation rates for Native American students are sliding backwards, according to “Diplomas Count 2013,” an annual report released today by Education Week.
Roughly 51 percent of Native American students in the class of 2010 earned a high school diploma. That’s down from 54 percent in 2008, when graduation rates for the group reached its peak.
“What we’re dealing with here is a tremendous issue,” says RiShawn Biddle, director of communications for the National Indian Education Association. “Native education is in crisis.”
Part of the issue stems from American Indian students winding up in schools that are already “dropout factories,” Biddle says. Lack of recognition is also a key concern.
“In many ways, our students are invisible,” Biddle says. “We’re not the largest percentage of the population, so people forget for a moment that we’re at the table.”
Native American students comprise less than 1 percent of students in the U.S. public school system, but higher concentrations exist in states such as Alaska, South Dakota, New Mexico, Montana and Oklahoma, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
In Alaska, where about 20 percent of the total student body is American Indian, the graduation rate for the demographic group was only 42.5 percent in 2010, according to the report.
Performance in South Dakota is even worse. In 2010, less than one-third of Native American students earned a diploma, the report notes. This student group accounts for about 15 percent of the state’s students, according to NCES.
While those figures paint a bleak picture, there are some bright spots. Oklahoma boasts a graduation rate of 63 percent for Native American students – one of the highest in the country – and an overall rate of nearly 74 percent. The Sooner State is home to more tribes than any other state, and about 9 percent of its students are Native American.
“The reason why Oklahoma stands out in many cases is because there is a closer working relationship between the state and tribes,” says Biddle. “It’s not a perfect relationship, there are issues, but … tribes such as Cherokee Nation, Osage Nation, Chickasaw Nation [are] all really doing interesting work pulling together academics and culture.”
Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Hawaii and Massachusetts achieved the highest graduation rates for American Indian students in 2010. Those rates range from close to 69 percent in Florida to 64 percent in Kansas. The overall graduation rate in Florida was 72.9 percent, the report states.
“When a state is doing well by Native children, they’re also, more than likely, going to work to do well by everyone,” Biddel says.
But the declining graduation rates among Native American students are in sharp contrast to the improvement among other minority groups….

Americans of all hues are struggling in the current environment.

‘Indian policy’ has now been brought down upon the American people, and the American people are the new Indians of the 21st Century.
Russell Means

ALL children have a right to a good basic education.


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Journal of American Indian Education

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