John Kline Needs To Look Beyond Just Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School

“The federal government has made a commitment to American Indian students and families to provide educational opportunities in a manner that preserves their culture, language, and traditions,” John Kline said in a March 26th press release. “Unfortunately, we are failing to meet that commitment.”

A very true statement … but Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School is not the only school that needs to be replaced … there are more than 60 others.

Yet it is also true that the federal government has a responsibility to provide for our Native children in other areas, and by any measure, we’ve failed.
Conditions for young people in Indian Country are tragic.
For example:
•More than one in three American Indian and Alaska Native children live in poverty;
•Suicide rates for Native children ages 15-24 years old are 2.5 times the national average and is the second-leading cause of death in that age group;
•Native children suffer the third highest rate of victimization;
•High school graduation rate for Native students is 53 percent, compared to 80 percent for white students;
•While the overall rate of child mortality in the U.S. has decreased since 2000, the rate for Native children has increased 15 percent; and
•60 percent of American Indian schools do not have adequate high-speed Internet or digital technology to meet the requirements of college and career ready standards.

But those problems could, and should, be addressed.

Last session, Tom Cole (R-OK) introduced H.R.4908 – Alyce Spotted Bear and Walter Soboleff Commission on Native Children Act but the House failed to act. Thus far, the House has not offered a new bill … but the Senate has approved S. 246 which was co-sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken.

The ball is in the House chamber … a “Champion” is needed … someone within the Republican leadership to demand a vote.

Essentially, what the Senate did is to create a national Commission on Native American Children to conduct an intensive study into issues facing Native children – including high rates of poverty, staggering unemployment, child abuse, domestic violence, crime, substance abuse, and dire economic opportunities – and make recommendations on how to make sure Native children get the protections, as well as economic and educational tools they need to have the opportunity to thrive.

Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said, “This commission would take a comprehensive look at all the factors and triggers in play – whether from the vantage point of justice, education or healthcare – and make informed policy suggestions to turn this cycle around.
The cost is minor … $2 million over five years.

John Kline, it’s time to be a “Champion”.


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