GREEN BAY, Wis. - David Beaulieu, president of the National Indian
Education Association, lobbed a bombshell in his keynote address before the
opening general assembly of the annual National Indian School Board
Association conference July 18.
"The Title VII Indian Education Act programs, meant to serve the special
unique cultural needs of American Indian students, are getting to look more
like Title I [compensatory education] and may soon disappear," noted
Beaulieu, who cautioned hundreds of delegates assembled at the broad
gathering of Indian school leaders to guard against the loss of their
heritage in the school curriculum.
"Issues of tribal culture, language, cognition, community and socialization
are central to learning," added Beaulieu, "and [they are] being dangerously
overlooked as the federal government rushes to push Indian schools to meet
the artificial standards of the No Child Left Behind mandate."
The Indian Education Act program, to which he referred, has historically
been the most dependable resource for "culturally based education," a
broad-based Indian school-wide approach to meet the special needs of Native
Beaulieu, director of the Arizona State University Center for Indian
Education, warned that schools for American Indians are increasingly
re-orienting their course offerings away from culturally based education in
favor of programs in reading and math.
The No Child Left Behind initiative of the Bush administration aims to make
schools accountable for the academic progress of every child.
The U.S. Department of Education pointed out that total NCLB funding for
American Indians and Alaska Natives has increased by $94 million, or an
added 47 percent, to more than $297 million. NCLB grants awarded by the
department are increasing Indian students' achievement, increasing the high
school graduation rates and preserving and teaching the Native language and
culture, according to a recent posting on the NCLB Web site, www.nclb.gov.
But Beaulieu and the National Indian Education Association disagree.
Beaulieu cited numerous voices crying out for relief from NCLB mandates in
field hearings conducted by NIEA throughout the country.
"NCLB is crowding out the broader purposes of Indian education," exclaimed
Beaulieu, "and the danger to our students is very real."
"Witnesses are telling us that the formula Title VII grant programs are
being told they can't offer Native language or culture in their schools,"
"The [government] has completely overlooked the Native Languages Act of
1990 and the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 to preserve and
protect the rights of Native Americans to use and develop Native American
languages," he added.
Among the handful of recommendations recently proposed to the Bush
administration, NIEA called for "the development of a doctrine of 'trust'
in the area of education and the convening of meaningful intergovernmental
cooperation as indicated within the purposes of the Indian Education Act,"
according to Beaulieu.