Tester fights to increase opportunity for American Indian and Alaska Native children

New bill will create grant initiative for after school programs in Indian Country

(U.S. Senate)-As the Senate debates the Every Child Achieves Act Senator Jon Tester is fighting to increase opportunities for children by expanding afterschool programs on reservations that are currently not available in many Indian communities.

Tester today introduced legislation that creates a grant initiative to establish or maintain affordable before school, after school, and summer school activities for American Indian and Alaska Native children. According to The Afterschool Alliance, at least 40 percent of Native American parents say they are unable to enroll their child in afterschool programs because they are too expensive.

“Children should not fall behind because they can’t access opportunities outside of the classroom,” Tester said. “Students who participate in extracurricular activities perform better in school and are more likely to graduate. My bill provides tribes the resources to create and maintain safe, nurturing and culturally-aware environments for children that need a place to go beyond the classroom.”

Under Tester’s bill the grants would provide funding for three to five years at a minimum of $50,000 per year. The total amount available for the grants would start at $2 million and increase each year by $2 million for five years.

The grants would allow for federal food assistance and the construction of facilities. The grants would be administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

In some cases afterschool programs have helped increased Native American graduation rates by approximately 40 percent, with the Boys and Girls Clubs reporting that 90 percent of their alumni graduation on time, compared to only 52 percent of all Native American students.

Last month Tester helped open Thunder Park, a new skate part for youth on the Blackfeet Reservation in Browning, Montana.

Earlier this week the Senate unanimously passed Tester’s amendment that encourages the Secretary of Education to receive input from local stakeholders before developing any new rules or regulations.