Tag Archives: Native American Education

The Trump Budget Steps Toward The End Of The Trail

The Trump Administration assault on America’s own citizens is replicating, in its own way, past assaults on Native Americans.

“Members from tribes in Oregon, Washington, California, Montana, Idaho and Alaska called on Congress to restore funding to tribes during budget negotiations. The cuts ignore the treaty responsibilities to federally recognized tribes, they said, and put a stranglehold on programs that have been chronically underfunded.” [PBS]

And the administrative response?  The Office of Budget and Management didn’t respond to the e-mail asking for comments.  Wondering why the tribes are worried?

“The proposed budget would slash $64 million in federal Native American funding for education, $21 million for law enforcement and safety, $27 million for natural resources management programs run by tribes plus $23 million from human services, which includes the Indian Child Welfare Act, said Carina Miller, a councilwoman with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, in Oregon.

It would also eliminate funding for tribal work on climate change and cut block grant programs that provide housing assistance for Native Americans, she added.”

Cutting $64 million for funding Native American schools is an illustration of why the old “backlog” attacks are usually phony.  The current funding for school construction and maintenance is already “backlogged” to an alarming extent: (pdf)

Despite some improvement and temporary relief, BIE schools lack adequate funding for construction to address documented needs. At the end of 2015, BIE school buildings had almost $400 million in deferred maintenance, with 55 elementary and secondary schools (30 percent of all BIE schools) in poor condition. The total backlog, including both schools and employee housing, was about $600 million.

So, there’s a backlog of $600 million which will be solved by adding another $64 million cut?   Now, a word about law enforcement cuts:

“Take public safety and justice. Although Trump has fashioned himself as being tough on crime, particularly when it comes to immigration and terrorism, he’s seeking a huge cut of $30 million to programs that help tribes address high rates of crime in their communities.Tribal Justice Support, for example, would lose a whopping $10 million, according to the budget justification. That’s a direct rebuke to tribes in California and Alaska, whose justice systems were hobbled by Congress during the termination era, when the federal government was eager to shed its trust and treaty responsibilities.'”

These cuts are underpinned by a philosophical statement that is reminiscent of an excuse in years past to justify cutting services and programs for Native American citizens.  “Self Determination,” and “Termination.”  Here’s a statement that contains some of these elements:

“President Trump promised the American people he would cut wasteful spending and make the government work for the taxpayer again, and that’s exactly what this budget does,” said U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke.  “Working carefully with the President, we identified areas where we could reduce spending and also areas for investment, such as addressing the maintenance backlog in our National Parks and increasing domestic energy production on federal lands.  The budget also allows the Department to return to the traditional principles of multiple-use management to include both responsible natural resource development and conservation of special places.  Being from the West, I’ve seen how years of bloated bureaucracy and D.C.-centric policies hurt our rural communities.  The President’s budget saves taxpayers by focusing program spending, shrinking bureaucracy, and empowering the front lines.”

Points to notice:  (1)  The “statement opens with the presumption that government spending is by default wasteful, and therefore cuts are always justifiable.  Not so fast, when there are backlogs in such basic services as education and law enforcement we’re not talking about bloated budget line items; we’re discussing elements that are already underfunded.  (2) Notice that Native Americans were certainly not a priority in Interior Department discussions about the administrative budget — national park maintenance and “domestic energy policy” were front and center.  Let’s guess the latter being placed in greater proximity to center stage than the former.

(3) There’s a clue to this placement in the phrase “multiple use management”  as in — let energy development take precedence over Native American interests in how tribal lands are utilized.  There’s nothing particularly “traditional” about multiple use management, except perhaps for admirers of the administration’s capacity to gaslight and rewrite history for its own propaganda purposes.

(4) Emphasizing location doesn’t necessarily mean a person has any extraordinary insight or expertise.  It is perfectly possible for a non-Native person to live practically next door to a colony or reservation and have little contact and even less expertise in Native American issues.  So, if the expression “being from the West,” is supposed to indicate such insight and expertise, it’s not quite enough for the resumé.  Another point to notice is (5) That the budget comments refer to rural communities, not necessarily Native American reservations.

(6) Since Native Americans are referenced as part of the whole rural category, we need to focus on the last statement:

 I’ve seen how years of bloated bureaucracy and D.C.-centric policies hurt our rural communities.  The President’s budget saves taxpayers by focusing program spending, shrinking bureaucracy, and empowering the front lines.”

D.C. -centric is code for that old monster under the bed for conservatives, that the federal government is the ‘enemy’ of local or in this case tribal governments. No evidence is offered that tribal governments have been hurt by DC decisions, other than the decisions to under-fund tribal law enforcement and educational programs.

Program spending is code for cutting spending — presumably for the benefit of millionaires and billionaires who are expecting a magnificent batch of tax cuts in exchange for cutting money previously allocated for tribal law enforcement, housing, and education programs.

Shrink bureaucracy is another bit of code for cutting government staffing such that programs cannot be implemented.  This hoary old line is hauled out every time a Republican wants to cut social, safety net, or any other program for minority communities.

However, it’s the “empowering the front lines” suggestion that ought to set off the alarm bells.  This particular element goes back to the bad old days of the Dawes Act.  Under the terms of this horrific piece of legislation passed by Congress in 1887 “allowed” tribes to assign individual parcels of tribal lands into private ownership (an older version of ’empowering the front lines) with devastating results:

“The Dawes Act reduced Native American landholdings from 138 million acres in 1887 to 78 million in 1900 and continued the trend of white settlement on previously Native American-held land. In addition, the law created federally funded boarding schools designed to assimilate Native American children into white society. Family and cultural ties were practically destroyed by the now-notorious boarding schools, in which children were punished for speaking their native language or performing native rituals.”

This situation wasn’t rectified until 1934. It was the ultimate in ’empowering the front lines’ and it didn’t end well.  In more modern parlance, the Trump budget makes it quite clear that if tribal government want to improve their schools, or even perform basic maintenance on them, or support their law enforcement efforts they are “empowered” to do so by the federal government — quick translation: You’re On Your Own — the policy appears to harken back to the Republican staple, the Termination movement that prevailed from 1953 to 1968; almost but not quite.  There is no movement to terminate tribal governments, but we need to be aware that a tribal government which cannot deliver important local services because of budget restraints is operating with at least one hand, if not both, tied behind the back.

At the risk of indulging in some speculation at this point, let’s consider the possibility that as funding for tribal housing, law enforcement, health, and educational services are further reduced there is a greater likelihood the tribes will have to sell off tribal assets, or the rights to tribal assets, to sustain their own programs.  Read this as: The greater the cuts to local tribal programs the more likely the tribe is to sell off mineral rights and to allow the development of everything from mines to pipelines on tribal lands.   There doesn’t seem to be much that’s very subtle about this. Combine “empowering front lines” with “multiple use management” and the whole picture isn’t too difficult to imagine.

It’s a rather bleak picture, another step toward the End of The Trail.


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Filed under Native Americans, Nevada, Politics

Romney: Coupon Conservative – Education Coupon Problems

As of the 2007-08 school year there were 21,582 Nevada youngsters enrolled in non-public schools, 74.9% of whom lived in either Clark or Washoe counties.   The total private school enrollment represents about 5% of the total K-12 enrollment in the state.  Private school enrollments are highest in K-3 and decline as the grade level increases.  [NDoE pdf] While the Romney Campaign has offered few details about his educational policies — Now, why are we not surprised by that? — the outlines are shaping up as Coupon Conservatism primarily benefiting those private schools. There are some pieces of the puzzle from the former Massachusetts Governor:

“Right now, some $26 billion in federal funds goes to districts based on how many of those students – whose needs tend to increase the costs of education – attend their schools. Romney would instead provide a voucher of sorts that would allow each student to take the federal funds and use them to attend any in-state school of the family’s choice, potentially including private schools.”

“For the first time in history, federal education funds will be linked to the student, so that parents can send their child to any public or charter school of their choice,’’ Romney said. [BostonGlobe](emphasis added)

The Numbers Game

The Glitch: The “voucher of sorts” nomenclature may allow the campaign to say This Isn’t A Voucher Program — without saying…This is a Voucher Program.  It’s also confusing.  Federal funding for K-12 education isn’t a single large pot portioned out on a per child basis.

For example, how would the Romney Administration allocate funding per child IF the federal money “travels with the child?”  Is the child eligible for PL 874 “impact funding?”  PL81- 874 allocates funding to school districts which serve Native American youngsters who live on non-taxed tribal lands.  [Fed funding pdf] Would the Department of Education have to calculate a “withdrawal coupon value” for a Reservation youngster who enrolls in a charter or non-public school?

Is the child eligible for Title I Migrant education programs?  Or does he or she attend a school eligible for Title I “basic” funding?  Is the child eligible for funding for educating abused, neglected, or delinquent young persons?  Is the child currently attending a public school which receives IDEA funding?  Or,  occupational and vocational training funds?

Does federal funding appropriated for teacher training, curriculum development, and other educational improvement programs become part of the pot and divvied up on a per individual student basis?  Are Title IX funds for training and professional development part of the Student’s Coupon?

Does he or she take the lunch money too?  Does some poor soul have to determine if the youngster is eligible for free or reduced price school lunches?  If so, does the allocation to the state have to be calculated on a per child basis and sent along with the child to his or her new school?  Is the little pupil eligible for services for special needs students?  Are funds appropriated for the training of food service personnel who provide meals for special needs children to be included in the “per child coupon?”

Who gets to calculate the value of commodity food and sort out the price tags associated with federal and state reimbursement rates?  Is this to be part of the “per child coupon?”

Not to belabor this point, but if we simply add up all the federal funding sent to the State of Nevada and divide it up by the total enrollment numbers, then is a first grader enrolling in a private school who is not classified as a special needs student; who is not eligible for free or reduced price lunches, who does not live on a Reservation, and who is not of an age to benefit from occupational education and training funds … taking money with him to which he is not entitled?  Is he or she entitled to “take money” along that has been allocated for science education equipment? For teacher training and professional development?

If we agree that federal funding for specific targeted purposes (Special Education, Nutrition Programs, PL 81-874, Title I, etc.) should be retained for those who truly need the services — then who has to calculate precisely what amount of money follows each individual child?  There’s an accounting issue of the first water — whomever has to perform all the calculations.  Sound easy? Then remember that there are 55,350,000 youngsters enrolled in U.S. public schools. [NCES]

Perhaps these questions are why the Romney campaign is being a bit vague about the details?  The former Governor hasn’t clarified what constitutes “the federal funds” which might be equitably “linked to the student” and until that happens all we have in hand is a accounting nightmare of astounding proportions.

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Filed under 2012 election, education, nevada education, Politics, Romney