U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced a bill to improve the education of Native people, the Native Culture, Language and Access for Success in Schools (Native CLASS) Act.
“In many regions of our country, Native students suffer from the lowest graduation rates and poorest academic performance,” said Chairman Akaka. “This comprehensive bill outlines a new vision of education built on Native priorities. As a former teacher, principal and administrator, I know the power that integrating culture and increasing access to opportunities can have in improving outcomes for our Native students. To build a successful future for our Native communities, we must start with success in our schools.”
The Native CLASS Act (S. 1262) contains a comprehensive set of provisions that address language and culture-based education, local control and parental involvement, and teacher training and development.
The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Tim Johnson (D-North Dakota) and Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii).
Here is the Senate floor statement by Senator Daniel K. Akaka on Thursday, June 23, 2011, on the Native Culture, Language and Access for Success in Schools (Native CLASS) Act
Mr. President, I rise today to introduce the Native Culture, Language and Access for Success in Schools bill (Native CLASS).
As a former educator, I understand the critical role of education, not just to the life of a young person, but also to the future of a culture and a community. For too long, the Native people of this country have lived with a substandard education system that lacks cultural relevance and is burdened with administrative challenges and severe underfunding.
Three major reports by the federal government on Native education since 1928 have demonstrated little, if any, improvement in the education of Native people in the past 80 years. This ailing system has resulted in some of the worst education outcomes in the country. On average, in the states with the highest Native populations, the graduation rates for Native students are lower than the graduation rates for all other racial/ethnic groups, hovering well below 50 percent. We can no longer tolerate this, especially because our federal government has a unique trust obligation to provide a quality education to its Native people.
Native languages and cultures are the roots of all Native peoples, and to oki-to cut those roots is to inherently harm the Native peoples. The comprehensive legislation I am introducing today puts forward a new vision of Native education-one that is grounded in culture, language and local community control. The bill provides for many new access opportunities for tribes to be partners in their own education systems and paves the way for innovative language and culture-based instruction programs. Additionally, it provides much stronger accountability by agencies to native communities for the administration of their children’s education.
The provisions of this bill are the result of consultation and input with a wide range of American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian stakeholders.
The introduction of this bill is only the beginning of a dialogue about this new vision of Native education. We will continue to work with our Native stakeholders to improve this bill and ensure that it builds strong roots and meets the unique needs of all our native students.
I would like to thank Mr. JOHNSON and Mr. INOUYE for sponsoring this bill. I urge my other colleagues to join me in supporting the passage of this legislation.
Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the RECORD.
Submitted by Sen. Akaka’s office