Cherokee Nation Applauds Passage of Johnson-O’Malley Reform Bill

A student at Tahlequah High School, located in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the capital of the Cherokee Nation. Photo: Anadisgoi

Published January 9, 2019

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — The Cherokee Nation is applauding the recent signing of the Johnson-O’Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act by President Trump. The bill will establish a new baseline count of JOM-eligible Native students and institute a modern, accurate allocation funding formula.

The federal funding formula for JOM has been frozen since 1995, and restrictive caps have limited the number of students served each year by the program. The fiscal year 2018 federal budget allocated only $15 million of the estimated $42 million required for fully funding JOM in the United States.

The Cherokee Nation and leaders of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Tribes have made JOM reform legislation a priority, passing a resolution earlier this year in support of the bill and encouraging the federal government to stop a decades-long decline in per-pupil funding.

“JOM reform is vital to the future of the Cherokee Nation and other tribes across the country,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker, who serves as president of the Inter-Tribal Council. “While per-pupil federal JOM allocations have declined, Indian Country has grown by leaps and bounds. We must raise the bar. Here in the Cherokee Nation, we serve more than 26,000 students. With the passage of this bill, I believe we are poised to build a stronger future for the Cherokee Nation, for Oklahoma, and for all of Indian Country.”

The federal Johnson-O’Malley Program provides books, fees, equipment and other necessities to hundreds of thousands of Native children across the country. JOM programs also incorporate unique tribal culture and heritage in school curriculum.

Cherokee Nation JOM Program Manager Mark Vance serves as vice president of the National Johnson-O’Malley Association and has spent years advocating for modernization of JOM funding methods.

“We’ve spent several decades advocating for reform, and I’m very pleased to see this bill signed,” Vance said. “JOM is incredibly important for students to retain a cultural connection to their tribe through education. It instills within them a sense of pride. This bill is a major step in the right direction, and I look forward to seeing the positive changes it will make throughout Indian Country.”

Though federal JOM allocations have declined, the Cherokee Nation continues to invest millions of dollars into education each year. In fiscal year 2018, the tribe gave 108 schools in northeast Oklahoma a total of more than $5.4 million from the sale of tribal car tags, bringing the total to about $50 million since 2002. The Cherokee Nation has nearly doubled funding for the Cherokee Nation Higher Education Scholarship Program from $8.5 million in 2003 to nearly $16 million last fall, increasing the number of scholarships awarded by 43 percent. More than 27,000 scholarships have been awarded in the past decade.

To learn more about Cherokee Nation JOM or other education services, visit www.cherokee.org/services/education.

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