President Barack Obama is seeking a $50 million increase in funding in his fiscal 2016 budget request for a program that aims to boost the college- and career-readiness of Native American youth.
Native Youth Community Projects, an initiative that was launched in late 2014 with $3 million in funding, provides grants to Native communities to support efforts to improve college- and career-readiness. The project is part of a larger federal Native youth initiative that is administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Demonstration Grants Program and is attempting to expand opportunities and improve outcomes for children in Native communities.
Nationwide, Native children often lag their peers in academic achievement, college-going rates, and college-completion rates. American Indian and Alaska Native students post some of the lowest scores on the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress each year. Only 67 percent of Native American students graduate from high school in four years, compared to 86 percent of white students, and 88 percent of Asian and Pacific Islander students. At schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education, the four-year graduation rate is only 53 percent. In 2012, only 39 percent of Native students who started college at a four-year school in 2005 as first-time, full-time students graduated, compared to 60 percent of white students.
The state of Native American education received increasing attention in 2014. In June, the Obama administration announced plans to improve the Bureau of Indian Education, which include moving away from a federal “command and control culture” and giving tribes more control over schools. In July, the administration announced $2.5 million in grants for tribes to improve schools. In October, six tribes in Arizona and North Dakota received funding to establish and manage their own school systems.
Several recent reports have also chronicled the conditions of tribal schools, many of which are in disrepair and lacking supplies, computers, and Internet access.
The fiscal 2016 budget proposal also includes $41 million for the Department of the Interior to expand computer and Internet access at Bureau of Indian Education schools.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rural Education blog.