MREA seeks to be the voice for the needs of American Indian (AMI) students, the school districts who serve American Indian students and communities, and others concerned with the quality of education for AMI students. MREA has set a series of legislative goals for this unique group.
The first priority is getting families, babies and young children off to the right start with high quality, coordinated, and culturally appropriate early childhood education and family support. Research clearly points to early childhood education as the key to success in life, and in Minnesota the Prairie Island Indian Community (PIIC) has 20 years of experience with this approach and now has a 100 percent graduation rate.
Funds need to be appropriated for the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to fund the planning and implementation of coordinated, effective preschool for American Indian families that bring together at the same table school districts, tribal nations, BIA, Headstart, and counties across the state where American Indian students reside. MDE should utilize the expertise of PIIC in this effort and be authorized to modify early childhood funding provided by the state to meet AMI needs.
- Mental and Physical Health
Funding for a planning, coordination and implementation effort to address the mental and physical health of American Indian youth of all ages, similar to that described above for early childhood, with the inclusion of the Department of Health and health care providers in this effort.
- Impact Aid
School districts serving AMI students depend on Impact Aid to in lieu of operating referendums due to the low percentage of land that is in private ownership in and around American Indian communities. Impact Aid could be cut dramatically in the Federal budget struggles. Minnesota may need to step in and replace some or all of the Impact aid with funding to equalize for AMI students the per-pupil funding other districts provide with the average operating referendum.
- Middle and High School Support
Getting students off to a great start with high quality early childhood education will be wasted if AMI students drop out along the way to graduation. Middle schools, high schools and tribal nations need to support AMI students with mentoring, culturally appropriate extended day and summer programming, and other support. With the current graduation rate of AMI students, getting AMI kids to graduation should be a state priority, and financially supported by the state. PIIC can be a model for these efforts, and MDE can coordinate and support locally developed programming.
School facilities for AMI students need state support again due to the paucity of tax base for local bonding.
- Rural School Improvement Grant
Rural School Improvement Grant (SIG) districts need a gradual reduction of those funds during this biennium rather than facing their own “fiscal cliff.” Funding should be provided at .67% for FY ’14 and .33% for FY ’15. There are 3 SIG districts serving AMI students and 7 other SIG districts in rural Minnesota.