September 13, 2012
Strengthening education in Indian Country
By Sen. Jon Tester
Strengthening Indian Country for future generations starts with investing in our schools and in opportunities for all young people. As a former elementary school teacher and your U.S. Senator, I know how important education is in building a better future for Montanaís American Indian people.
Education improves everyoneís quality of life, no matter where they live. Like family agriculture, quality public education is one of the cornerstones of our democracy. In addition to preparing students to compete in todayís global economy, it strengthens tribes by teaching young people about their native culture, their language, and their history.
Thatís why, as a proud member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Iíve held numerous listening sessions to hear directly from teachers, educators, and families across Indian Country about the opportunities and challenges they face in preparing our next generation.
In response to these meetings, Iíve boosted funding for successful initiatives like Impact Aid and Pell Grants, which help make college affordable for tens of thousands of Montanans.
Impact Aid, which provides assistance to school districts that contain tax-exempt government lands, is a key source of funding for tribal schools in Montana. Since becoming your senator in 2007, Iíve increased Impact Aid funding by five percent and boosted the budget for tribally-controlled colleges by nine percent.
These increases come despite the dangerous attempts by Congressman Dennis Rehberg and the House of Representatives to slash funding for schools in Indian Country. Unfortunately, Congressman Rehberg supported a recent measure which would have deeply cut Impact Aid. It would have also gutted an Education Department initiative that helps disadvantaged students.
Congressman Rehberg says Pell Grants are ďwelfare for the twenty-first century.Ē But the truth is these grants made college more affordable for 24,000 students across Montana last year--from our universities to our tribal colleges. Thatís not welfare -- thatís Montanans building a better life for themselves and their families. Thatís why I recently backed legislation to boost the maximum Pell Grant amount to more than $5,600.
Montanaís and Indian Countryís education priorities are my education priorities. I oppose No Child Left Behind and the Race to the Top program because they donít work for Montanaís rural schools, nor do they recognize the unique challenges facing Indian Country.
As your Senator, I will keep working to lay the foundation for a stronger Indian Country by investing in our most precious resource: our children. Our children are our future and we must do everything we can to help them get good jobs.
I do my best work when I hear from you. Working together, we can make responsible decisions and build a better future for Indian Country.