HB 140 Tribal Education Trust Fund

Why New Mexico Needs HB 140 Tribal Education Trust Fund

Summary: HB 140, introduced by Rep. Derrick Lente, creates a Tribal Education Trust Fund with a $50 million appropriation beginning July 1, 2023, to fund purposes outlined in the Indian Education Act, including: ensuring equitable and culturally relevant learning environments, educational opportunities, and culturally relevant instructional materials for Native American students; ensuring maintenance of native languages; increasing tribal involvement and control over schools; encouraging parental involvement in Native American student education; and more. Funds can also be used to build wi-fi resources, support Native language programs, and support career readiness programs. The fund would automatically generate interest revenue for tribally-controlled education, giving tribes greater autonomy, allowing them to develop educational services guided by their own communities, rather than depend on small grants from the state for specific uses.

History: A landmark 2018 Court ruling, Yazzie/Martinez v. State of New Mexico, found the state failed its constitutional duty to provide adequate education to Native children (as well as low-income students, ELL students, and students with disability – altogether 70% of students in the state.) That failure has resulted in poor outcomes for those students, including the lowest graduation rate in the country and low proficiency rates in reading and math. Several recent efforts have failed to remedy the problem. Rep. Lente sponsored two bills in the 2022 Session that would have given tribes more than $40 million for education, but those efforts mostly failed and the Indian Education Fund received just $15M.

Why This Bill Is Good for NM

  • Native students continue to graduate high school at lower rates than their peers – 71.5% compared to 76.8% for all students in 2021.
  • In Albuquerque Public Schools, the state’s largest district, Native student have the lowest proficiency in reading, math, and science of any student group.
  • In 2019, just 10% of Native American students completed advanced placement exams that earn students college credits while still in high school.
  • In federally operated boarding schools, from 1819 to 1969, Indigenous languages and cultures were destroyed, and Native children taken from their families were forced to “assimilate” into white culture. This resulted in a dramatic decline in the number of Native language speakers. Of 4,000 Navajo (Diné) students in Albuquerque Public Schools last year, only 200 were taking Navajo language classes.
  • Many Native children do not have internet service in their homes and once they leave school premises they are left without the advantages and opportunities available with internet access.
  • The Trust Fund would help to build educational hubs in Native communities – safe spaces with hearing and air conditioning, internet service, language classes, tutoring, and college and career readiness programs regardless of whether student attend tribal school or public school, according to Rep. Lente.
  • After generations of neglect, it’s time to make investments in the education and other needs of Native American children in New Mexico.
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