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Navajo and Arizona renew $17 million Diné College compact

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – An agreement that provides $1.75 million a year for construction of facilities and maintenance at Diné College has been renewed for 10 years.

“This is a great achievement for Diné College and the Navajo people,” said Diné College President Dr. Ferlin Clark. “This partnership between the state and the nation for education benefits everyone.”

The Navajo Nation Council’s Intergovernmental Relations Committee unanimously approved the compact Sept. 11; it was signed Sept. 12 by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. at the 63rd Annual Navajo Nation Fair.

“People often talk about the value of education, but too often they stop short of what is necessary to protect and advance it,” Brewer said. “Diné College has done a wonderful job of advancing education for communities that might not otherwise have access. Its success over the past 10 years should be commended, and I am excited to continue the partnership between the state and the Navajo Nation for the funding of Diné College.”

“Education is the means to getting back to standing on our own two feet, as individuals, as families, as communities and as a nation,” – Joe Shirley Jr., Navajo Nation President

Brewer also thanked former state Sen. Jack Jackson Sr. “for his years of service to the people of Arizona and the generations of Navajo students and families who will be forever enriched by the educational options that your political courage and fortitude helped to make possible.” Prior to signing the compact, Brewer asked those attending the signing to join her in the ongoing fight for education.

“Continue to urge your elected leaders to follow the example of those like Senator Jackson. He knew how to put politics aside and work for the benefit of his constituents – all of you. This is how we can protect the seed corn of our future.”

Before the signing ceremony, Brewer participated in the parade at the Navajo Nation Fair wearing a Diné College T-shirt accompanied by Clark and Jackson. The formal signing ceremony took place at the completion of the parade.

“Education is the means to getting back to standing on our own two feet, as individuals, as families, as communities and as a nation,” Shirley said. “That’s why it needs to continue to be number one in our priorities. As a sovereign nation, we need to be independent again. I really believe the only way to be is to complement each other, especially when it comes to our youth. Working together, we can’t go wrong.”

“I know there were many of my colleagues who have contributed greatly to bringing this signing to fruition,” said Navajo Nation Council Speaker Lawrence T. Morgan. “I’d like to extend my sincere praise to the President of Diné College Dr. Ferlin Clark, and his administration for their outstanding service to Diné College over the past 10 years. I also want to note that Diné College, over a 10 year period, reported a flawless audit for the use of these funds provided by the state of Arizona.”

The funds will be used to build new facilities, renew current ones, infrastructure, and to augment the budget from the Navajo Nation and the federal government which, Clark said, doesn’t necessarily fund maintenance of facilities.

“We envision new facilities, additions to current Arizona campuses and sites and repairs are needed for our aging buildings,” Clark said. The main campus in Tsaile was constructed in 1971.

He said the effort began more than a decade ago. On May 6, 1999, then Arizona Gov. Jane Dee Hull signed House Bill 2676 which amended Arizona’s tax code to allow a portion of Transaction Privilege Tax revenues collected on the Navajo Nation to Diné College.

In addition, the college achieved accreditation for its two-year academic programs, and approval of a bachelor’s degree program in elementary education; paving the way for additional degree programs.

“It’s very fitting that this signing occur today at the Navajo Nation fair and parade amongst our people so that many of you can see the doors of educational opportunity open and be invited to walk through these doors and become our next leaders,” said 21st Navajo Nation Council Delegate Larry Noble. “Higher education plays an important role in moving our people forward. The funding through the compact has allowed our students to acquire a Western education as well as build on the traditional knowledge base we have always possessed as Diné.”

“These are milestones that are historic,” Clark said. “This has been a team effort. The challenges and obstacles have been great. As you know the state of Arizona and the country has been in a budget crunch, and for us to achieve and secure this funding is incredible and great for our college. I am elated and proud of this accomplishment. This could not have happened without prayers and the support of administration, faculty, students, the Board of Regents, and Navajo Nation and state leaders.”