New Mexico’s Indian Education Act just got an update. A bill signed by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on Monday spells out how school districts must study the needs of their Native American students and come up with systematic ways to address them.
The new measure requires school districts with Native American students to develop frameworks and budget priorities to help those students succeed.
Though the Indian Education Act has been around for 15 years, Dr. Tiffany Lee, Professor and Chair of the UNM Native American Studies Department, said many school districts aren’t very familiar with it.
“This, I think, will help those school districts with ideas around: how do you create culturally relevant activities, how do you create important services to students that they could use some more assistance with?" said Lee, who is Navajo and Lakota. "So, I do think this makes it more concrete and easier perhaps for school districts to wrap their minds around how to implement the act in an appropriate and effective way.”
Of the 23 districts and several charter schools with significant Native American student populations, just 14 submitted the required tribal education report to the NM Public Education Department last year.
The update also requires those districts and charters hold at least two public meetings a year to update tribal leaders, parents and PED on their progress.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Derrick Lente (D-Sandia Pueblo), did not come with an appropriation, so the Legislative Finance Committee noted that any costs from implementing it will be "borne by schools, tribes, other community stakeholders, and PED."
"To really create the kind of systemic change that the bill is calling for, schools really are going to need resources," said Lee. "But I feel like we are in a place now, in the state of New Mexico, to support this kind of work."
Lente's bill was part of Lujan Grisham's "rocket docket" of 42 bills signed Monday. Previously, it passed through the legislature in 2017 and 2018, and was vetoed both times by former Governor Susana Martinez.
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