Published Online: November 10, 2009
Published in Print: November 11, 2009, as Tribal Leaders Say Resources Wanting

Policy Brief

Tribal Leaders Say Resources Wanting

Native American tribal leaders are telling federal education officials that the federal government needs to provide resources for early childhood education, after-school programs, and other services in schools that serve American Indian children.

But tribal leaders, many of whom were in Washington last week for a White House event on Native American issues, acknowledged that enhancing social service programs would require a substantial infusion of federal resources—which might be a tall order in tight fiscal times.

“Getting the money is always going to be a problem,” said Levi Pesata, the president of the Jicarilla Apache Nation in New Mexico, after a Nov. 4 event at the National Museum of the American Indian.

The comments came at a wide-ranging discussion on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Its current version is the No Child Left Behind law.

Since spring, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has been crisscrossing the country, meeting with educators, parents, and community members to discuss reauthorization.


Two top Education Department officials—Carmel Martin, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy development, and Thelma Melendez, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, mostly listened at last week’s event.

Some tribes indicated that they were interested in applying for some of the $4 billion in grants available through the Race to the Top Fund, which was created under the federal economic-stimulus program to reward states that make progress on teacher distribution, standards, data systems, and other areas.

It isn’t clear yet whether tribes would be able to apply for a grant on their own. Tribes are regarded as separate nations, although their schools are sometimes operated by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Native American leaders also emphasized the need for more teachers who are either Native American themselves or trained to work with the population. And they said Native American students need to be schooled in their heritage and language, not just in reading and math.

Vol. 29, Issue 11, Page 15

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