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Rep. Young Defends Native Education; Amendment Passes House


Washington, D.C. Alaskan Congressman Don Young’s amendment (#532) striking language from the Continuing Resolution that would eliminate all funding for the Alaska Native Education Equity Act and the Native Hawaiian Education Program, passed the House this morning by a vote of 313- 117.  

For video of Congressman Young speaking on the House floor about his amendment, click here.

For a copy of the amendment, click here.

Congressman Young’s remarks as prepared:

“Once again, the young people of the States of Alaska and Hawaii are being targeted.  They are being told that they are not worth the investment of the federal government.  They are being told that the education of their children is not important to Congress.  When will these attacks stop?

“A program vitally important to the future of many young Alaska Natives and another important to Native Hawaiians, have been unjustly eliminated from the Continuing Resolution, and referred to, incorrectly, as earmarks.

“Let me be clear.  The Alaska Native Education Equity Act is not an earmark.  This program was passed into law in 1994 and reauthorized in 2001 as part of the No Child Left Behind Act.  I repeat, it is not an earmark.    

“The funds for this competitive grant program go directly to the Department of Education to aid a greatly disadvantaged group of students.  This program is intended to aid Alaska Native students wherever they may go to school and anyone who serves the educational needs of Alaska Native children is eligible to apply for these funds.  

“I understand why it is so easy for some of my colleagues to target these students – because most Alaska Native children live in one state and most Native Hawaiians live in one state.  But would this program be targeted if it were directed at improving the education of another minority group where the children happen to be spread out across the United States and several congressional districts?  I don’t think so.

“Native Americans in the Lower 48 states receive funding through the BIA for their schools.  The Alaska Native Education Equity Act was enacted to make up for the fact that no BIA education funds go to Alaska because we do not have Indian reservations and do not have BIA schools in our state.  In fact there is standard language included every year in the Interior Appropriations bill that continues to ban BIA education money from going to Alaska.  

“Hawaii also does not have any BIA funded schools.  Two states, each with large Native populations, are being specifically targeted, and it is wrong.  Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians are also Native Americans, and should not be treated any differently for the purposes of educating our children.  

“The Alaska Native Education Equity Act program has made a difference.  Alaska Native student achievement has increased and their dropout rates have declined over the last decade.  Eliminating these funds would be devastating to these students, and to our country.  As my friend and former Appropriations Chairman Mr. Obey once said, “there is nothing more expensive in the long run than a badly educated child.”  

“I understand the economic difficulties we are facing today, and the all-important task of reducing the deficit.  However, to single out two specific groups of underprivileged students, just because they predominantly live in two remote states, is just plain wrong.  

“I am asking that the section of the C.R. that does not allow funds to be allocated to these programs be stricken and the Department of Education be allowed to decide how much funding these programs need to continue serving Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students.  To suddenly be cut off from important education dollars with no warning would be disastrous to these children who want nothing more than to succeed in school.   

“We need to stop treating these specific minority groups as second class citizens.  My daughters and grandchildren are Alaska Natives. I would ask my colleagues to think about how they would feel if their children or grandchildren were being told by their country that they just don’t matter.  Funding these programs is part of our responsibility to ensure that all American children are given an equal opportunity to succeed.” 

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