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From the day that they got hold of these proposals from the Navajo schools, they should have helped us out and given us a waiver or whatever is necessary so that these contract schools are eligible. It is very important. I think it is a good program, a good provision that was put into Public Law 100-297, and we could really
STATEMENT OF KAREN J. FUNK, LEGISLATIVE ANALYST, NATIONAL INDIAN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, WASHINGTON, DC
Ms. FUNK. Thank you. I would like to extend Lorena Buhe's answer on your question about the Office of Indian Education.
One basic concern is that the office has been so focused on title IV, what we now call title V, Indian Education Act programs, which of course they must do. That is important. But their statutory mandate is much broader than that.
I know NIEA feels very frustrated when we see the Indian Education president and the drug czar and everybody else come up with their big national education and drug proposals that usually totally ignore Bureau-funded schools and Indian tribes. The Office of Indian Education should play a more aggressive role and, frankly, not wait to be asked for their opinion when they know that within the administration there are major policy initiatives being formulated. It is much easier to deal with something, as you know, before it hits the streets than to try to amend it afterward. That would be my general comment on the office.
The NIEA testimony contains a lot of the points already made here today so I will just highlight a couple items. I would like to point out the enormous effect of the Federal education budget on Indian schools. People frequently point out that the Federal share of spending for education is just 7 percent. I am sure that is correct, but for a Bureau-funded school, it is 100 percent. For a public school with a large number of native students, which has as a huge part of their operating budget the Impact Aid program-and there are public schools on reservations with nearly 100 percent native population-a cut in Federal education spending or a GrammRudman sequestration has a totally different effect than on, for instance, a school in Montgomery County.
When Gramm-Rudman was passed, there were unsuccessful efforts made to protect Indian education programs from across-theboard cuts for that very reason. If there would ever be an opportunity to include Indian education in the protection of GrammRudman along with some of the other programs that are protected, that would be very helpful.
I just returned from Anchorage and the National Indian Education Association Conference at which Secretary Cavazos spoke. Jo Jo Hunt made reference to this—the Secretary did announce two initiatives in his keynote address. One was that there would be created an Indian/Alaskan Native education data base, and we really do support this. It is something people have been advocating for years.
Very often our data is old or not in the form we need it. We can not break out tribal from urban statistics. A lot of information that you get_from the Department of Education is broken down into White, Black, and Hispanic. Then there will be an asterisk and under that it says, “Hispanic means everyone who is not Black or White.” That information is not of a lot of value to us when we are trying to make plans or advocate. So we really do welcome the creation of an Indian/Alaskan Native data base.
We do want to coordinate the creation of a data base with any efforts that might already be underway. We do not see any reason for efforts to be duplicated. One matter in particular is research on the high school dropout rate. The National Education Association and Arizona State University have been planning throughout the course of this year to undertake that project; to do a survey of the Indian/Alaska Native dropout rate. Obviously, we would encourage the Department of Education to talk with these organizations and coordinate and make their efforts complimentary.
The rest of our testimony focuses in one way or another on the issue of access. I will not repeat all our written testimony. We are very eager to see the survey from the Department of Education and I believe is nearly complete-where they go through all the grant programs in the division of elementary and secondary education and indicate which ones they believe Bureau-funded schools are eligible for, which ones not, and which ones where legal clarification is needed.
Sometimes the law is silent or vague and sometimes it is explicit regarding eligibility of Bureau-funded schools. It has led to a lot of confusion.
I read the Federal Register every day and I dutifully call the number listed every time I see a grant that I think a tribal school may be eligible for. It is usually a big waste of time because you get transferred about 10 times trying to find out the answer as to whether Bureau-funded schools are eligible or not. Sometimes by the way, I also have this same experience regarding whether tribal colleges are eligible as institutions of higher education to apply for various grants.
In our testimony, we went into three laws that we would like to see amended to provide better access to tribes and tribal organizations. They are the Vocational Education Act, which your committee is being very helpful in improving; the Adult Education Act, which we believe needs a 2-percent tribal allocation, and the title III act, which is the Developing Institutions Act, in which we believe tribal colleges should have a separate allocation of funds, as do historically black colleges.
Finally, I would end by saying that NIEA would like to see some kind of initiative on the issue of fetal alcohol syndrome, to deal with issues of curricula in schools, identification of students who may be FAS or FAE affected, and counseling and teaching techniques for FAS and FAE students. There really is not enough known about this and we probably are misdiagnosing many students and treating them in inappropriate ways, Because we do not understand the source of their problems.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
Ms. Bahe, may I ask a few questions about the Navajo school system?
Ms. BAHE. Yes. The CHAIRMAN. How many schools do you have that are community-controlled?
Ms. BAHE. Mr. Chairman, there are approximately 18 contract and grant schools on the Navajo Reservation and 70 BIA schools.
The CHAIRMAN. So that is 88?
Ms. BAHE. With the contract schools and tribal schools, more than 50 percent are Indians. We only have 4 out of the 13 schools that I work with who are non-Indians. I do not have the statistics on the Bureau schools.
The CHAIRMAN. Are most of your teachers Indians?
Ms. BAHE. In the tribal schools and contract schools, I would say it is about half and half. There is a great shortage of Indian teachers, and I think that is common in every Indian reservation. We do have a shortage of native teachers.
Several years back we had an excellent program that was initiated and funded out of the Bureau, a teacher training program. I, myself participated in that program and it was excellent. Most of the teachers that have participated in that program are still teachers on the Navajo Reservation.
The CHAIRMAN. Are all of your teachers recipients of baccalaureate degrees?
Ms. BAHE. Yes; I believe so, in the Bureau funded schools. In the contract and tribal schools, we do have a few who are still working at getting their credentials.
The CHAIRMAN. Tom.
I would like to commend the committee staff and many others who were involved in the markup yesterday of the Vocational Education Bill. I think it was probably one of the best examples we have seen recently of really cooperative effort in trying to address some of the concerns raised by our fine witnesses this morning.
I think we have come up with a piece of legislation that takes us farther than we have been before. It certainly does not get us to where we want to be, but it takes us farther than we have been before.
For the record, Mr. Chairman, I think that it is important that we cite the leadership of this committee under your tutelage as well as the involvement of so many of the committee staff involved in that effort.
Ms. Funk mentioned fetal alcohol syndrome. There is a book that has been published "The Broken Cord", which addresses this, and I highly recommend it to committee members and others. I think it probably focuses on this issue more effectively than any other book that has been published or written.
It makes an alarming report with regard to the number of cases in our school system today. I am told we could be experiencing numbers as high as 25 percent of those students who attend school today who are suffering in varying degrees from fetal alcohol syndrome. If that is the case, Ms. Funk's point needs to be emphasized and considered in as many ways as possible.
Your question was an appropriate one: How much do we spend on Indian education per capita; how much do our teachers get? But if I hear one lament about education in this country today, it is that we are asking education to do more than teach. We are asking education to play many roles today.
To the extent that that is true in non-Indian communities, it is even more true on the reservation and in Indian communities. In my view, Indian schools are being asked to be the teachers, the parents, the role models; they are asked to do many things that probably undermine a reasonable judgment with regard to how much we are spending and we use that as any measure of comparison with regard to what is being spent on non-Indian schools.
The fact is that we are not spending nearly enough in addressing the non-educational parts of the agenda and the responsibilities that we put on schools today. "The Broken Cord" and other studies that have been done with regard to fetal alcohol syndrome just give us one additional glimpse of the monumental problems we are facing here.
For the record, I think that it would be important for someone to give us an appreciation of the percentage of people who actually attain the 12th year in school today in Indian education. Can anyone give us that figure off the top of your head? What is the attainment level?
Mr. BORDEAUX. I could give you a good guess based on experience. I worked at St. Francis Indian School for 10 years as their executive director and then worked in other Federal programs.
On an average, we used to get approximately 50 to 60 students coming into our system as freshmen. Our graduation rate usually ranged between 30 and 40. If that is any indication of anything else, you could say somewhere between 50 and 65 percent of those who start high school complete through the 12th grade. That was just at this one school.
Senator DASCHLE. That would be my understanding, that it is somewhere between 50 and 60 percent. That means that with whatever resources we can provide to students, we lose out on perhaps as many as 40 percent who do not even stay in school, who then even further compound the problems we are facing in trying to address the real responsibilities that we put on the shoulders of those involved in Indian education today.
I have a question about a completely unrelated issue relating to the community college jurisdiction, as to whether it ought to go into the Department of Education, given many of the things you said today, or whether it ought to stay in BIA.
Roger, you probably have a better sense of that than anybody, but what would be your advice to this committee? Should we encourage the transition out of BIA and into the Department of Education when it comes to community colleges?
Mr. BORDEAUX. This is just a personal opinion, you know. There is no way I can speak for the community colleges and I am sure that AIHEC would be more than willing to tell you their answer. Senator DASCHLE. What is your answer?
Mr. BORDEAUX. I think that regardless of where the money flows through, those dollars have to get to the schools in the best way possible. The way that the Community College bill is written right now, there is not much in the way of administrative duties that the Bureau is responsible for.
The problem is that Congress, in their appropriations and requests that come from the Bureau, have decreases. Everybody knows it went from $3,000 to $1,800 per Indian student. It is not necessarily the administration part of the program; it is just that the budgetary documents that first came out from this administration and past Administrations has shown that decrease over the years.
When you try to compare, like I said, some programs are operated well in both institutions and others are just horrible. It might be that when the White House Conference comes up, they might determine that there is a need to set up a separate agency to handle all Indian programs, away from all departments, setting up something similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority or something like that. That is one of the options that may have to be looked at.
Senator DASCHLE. So to the question: do you support transfer, I am not sure I heard a yes or a no in all that.
Mr. BORDEAUX. Right now, I will say no.
Ms. HUNT. I think that we are in a situation where we are not the appropriate people to ask that question. The college presidents should be asked that. I have heard none of them make any mention at all of moving their program from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, so at this point, I would say no, until such time as those presidents say that indeed it ought to be moved.
Senator DASCHLE. It may not make much difference if we do not have better resources and top-level personnel administering the programs. Whether you change the alphabet at the top or not is probably irrelevant.
The point you make about resources and how much money we spend on students—that ought to be the major question, I suppose. I know that it is an interesting jurisdictional question at this point, and I have not heard much from the Indian community on this. Your responses are very helpful
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The CHAIRMAN. My question to the panel is: Has the program administered by the Office of Indian Education been effective in your view? Has it provided a better standard of living for Indian people? Has it increased the educational level of Indian people?
Ms. Hunt. Mr. Chairman, I have been involved in Indian education legislation for a number of years and have watched the programs under the Indian Education Act. Now, off the top of my head I can answer that, yes indeed, these programs have been effective. We have more doctors, lawyers, engineers, and so on and so forth because of that program. I think that we probably have more students remaining in school and getting their high school diploma and going on to college.