Senator pushes solution to
rebuild schools, strengthen tribal economies
SENATE) Senator Jon Tester, Chairman of the Senate Indian
Affairs Committee, is proposing a straightforward solution to
rebuild schools and improve education in Indian Country.
The 2009 Recovery Act authorized Indian tribes
to issue bonds that would raise capital to build new schools and
renovate existing ones. The Interior Department, however, did
not set up an escrow account to allow tribes to take advantage
of the support.
Tester wants Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
to move forward with an administrative fix that would establish
an account and allow tribal governments to access the program.
"It is our understanding that the lack of a school
construction bond escrow account serves as the main inhibitor,"
Tester and two of his Senate colleagues told Jewell. "While the
Nation's economy continues to rebound since 2009, the need for
capital investment in Indian Country remains significant."
In his letter, Tester reminded Jewell that one
of the federal government's "fundamental responsibilities" to
Indian tribes is to ensure Native children get a high-quality
education. He said that many attempts at reforming tribal schools
over the past 100 years have fallen short of expectations.
"The fact remains that school facilities in many
part of Indian Country are in such a state of disrepair they constitute
a major impediment to educational achievement by Indian school
children," Tester wrote.
over the Indian Affairs Committee earlier this year and immediately
made improving tribal education one of his top priorities. His
first hearing examined ways to improve early childhood education,
and he will hold a hearing this week on strengthening K-12 education.
Tester also recently introduced the Native
Language Immersion Student Achievement Act to preserve Native
languages and strengthen Indian education by establishing a grant
program to fund Native language educational initiatives throughout
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included
$400 million in qualified school construction tax-exempt bonds
for Bureau of Indian Education schools.
Tester's letter, which was also signed by Indian
Affairs Committee members, Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) and Al Franken
(D-Minn.), is available online HERE.
Contact: Marnee Banks or Dan Malessa (Tester)
- (202) 228-0371