May 17, 2007

Eyes trained on Montana

A Mandate for Native HistoryIn 2003, the Montana Supreme Court held that the state was required to provide enough funding to meet the constitutional requirements of the [Montana Indian Education For All] Act. But it still took another two years for legislators to allocate more than $11 million to meet the mandates of IEFA, ensuring a “quality” education to all Montana students. During the same session, “quality” was defined as programs that “integrate the distinct and unique cultural heritage of American Indians into the curricula with particular emphasis on Montana Indians.”

This precedent-setting education legislation is reverberating throughout Indian Country and stirring hope among Indian educators nationwide that they might win similar victories in their home states. This year, the South Dakota Legislature began debating its own Native education act. South Dakota and Montana are very similar in terms of American Indian population and educational statistics, and the wording of South Dakota’s proposed bill is comparable to IEFA. The South Dakota act, however, does not include any funding mechanism. Keith Moore, the state’s director of American Indian education, was quoted by the newspaper Indian Country Today as saying, “We are taking baby steps.”
Comment:  For more on the subject, see Integrating Indian Ed.

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