Proposed bill would give tribes more control over language programs
Lawmakers are trying once again to create a trust fund that would give New Mexico tribes more money and control to run their owneducational programs.
The proposed legislation is sponsored by Rep. Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo). It would create a $100 million Tribal Education Trust Fund that would disburse money directly to tribes over time to help build sustainable programs.
Randall Vicente, governor of Pueblo of Acoma, said this proposed bill can help sustain the Keres language in his community.
“During COVID, we lost a lot of our elderly, our fluent speakers, and our community members which were teaching the Acoma Keres language,” he said.
Vicente said the funds could help pay community members to teach Keres.
“To teach as an elder or as an uncle or an aunt, or maybe as a mentor into classrooms to the students,” he said.
The problem is finding a way to certify them as licensed language teachers.
“How do we qualify our Keres teachers?” said Vicente. “So while they speak Keres, yeah, they're from the college of hard knocks. They learned from our elders, they know they can speak our language.”
The Pueblo of Acoma has a variety of schools that fall under Bureau of Indian Education, Grants/Cibola County schools and private schools, all of which have limited funds.
Vicente said additional funds could help bring more teachers and tutors to help aid students. The need for transportation is also crucial for students living in rural areas who stay behind for after school programs.
Rep. Lente and advocates pulled back on a similar effort last year to push for more money in this session.
The Legislative Finance Committee’s budget proposal has $50 million set aside for the fund. The proposed bill must pass both chambers and be signed by the governor to become law.