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California tribes help out in education

PALA, Calif. – Throughout cash-strapped California, school districts have been forced to lay off a record number of teachers and cut into programs. But amid the public education fiscal crisis, at least three Southern California tribes have pitched in to help local schools and education programs.

The Vivian Banks Charter School, a part of the Bonsall Union School District in rural San Diego County, were ready to cut busing and programs until the Pala Band of Mission Indians came through with a $140,000 donation.

“They are struggling all the time. ... And were talking about cutting programs. We decided to step up and do the right thing,” said Pala Chairman Robert Smith.

The elementary school is located on the Pala Reservation and serves 119 students, nearly half of them Native American.

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In San Bernardino County, eight schools have the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians to thank for $550,000 donated in May that will help middle and high school students study science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“Now, during a time of unprecedented budget cuts it is critical for public and private partnerships to support science and math programs,” said San Manuel Chairman James Ramos. “We are proud to be a part of the alliance and be counted in support of our community’s students.”

The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians have added to the nearly $140,000 they have contributed to the Cathedral City Library over the past 15 years with a $2,700 contribution in June. The donation will help the Books Come Alive program in the city located in Riverside County, and served by the Palm Springs Unified School District, which has so far slashed $11 million from its budget.

“We feel strongly that education is the bedrock of success, and this is a summer program that pays great dividends for Cathedral City families,” said Agua Caliente Chairman Richard M. Milanovich.