U.S. Senators Tester & Schatz Aim to Bolster American Indian Early Childhood Education

Sen. Jon Tester, Vice Chair of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Sen. Jon Tester, Vice Chair of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Senators introduce bill to increase tribal sovereignty, boost educational opportunities for American Indian families

Published November 19, 2015

WASHINGTON — Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) have introduced legislation to bolster early childhood education opportunities for Native American families.

Tester and Schatz’s Tribal Early Childhood Education Act will better coordinate existing tribal early education initiatives, provide additional funding to start or expand early childhood programs, and recruit and retain more early childhood teachers to Native American classrooms.

“Graduation rates will not improve in Indian Country if students continue to fall behind at the starting line,” said Tester, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.  “This bill invests in Native American students, puts them on a path to graduate on time, and better prepares them to launch a successful career.”

“When children in our Native Hawaiian communities are well prepared for school, they have a better chance at succeeding,” said Senator Schatz.  “Our bill makes key investments in early childhood education for native students, creating more opportunities for them to reach their full potential.”

The Tribal Early Childhood Act amends the Native American Programs Act of 1974 to provide tribes and tribal organizations the ability to obtain technical assistance and training to administer new childhood education initiatives, more easily navigate through the red tape that has restricted many tribes from previously accessing early childhood education resources, and directly coordinate six different tribal early childhood initiatives operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The bill also provides supplementary funding to bolster early childhood education infrastructure and facilities, as well as extend the federal teacher loan forgiveness programs for early childhood educators to better recruit and retains teachers in Indian Country.

Native American kindergartners are more likely to be held back than any other peer group and Native American students graduate high school at the lowest rate in the nation.

Children who do not participate in early childhood education are 25 percent more likely to drop out of school and 60 percent more likely to never attend college.

Tester and Schatz’s bill is available HERE.

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