Vice-Chairman Tester Passes Four Bills Out of Indian Affairs Committee

Senator’s Legislation Will Increase Educational Opportunities, Reform Criminal Justice, and Enhance Tribal Sovereignty

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester today released the following statement after the Senate Indian Affairs Committee passed four of his bills that increase Native American educational opportunities and reform criminal justice in Indian Country:

“A quality education is critical to strengthening Indian Country, and an effective criminal justice system is necessary to combat addiction in Native communities,” said Tester, Vice-Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. “These bipartisan bills enhance tribal sovereignty and were built with direct input from tribes, and now they deserve a vote by the entire Senate.”

The following bills authored by Tester were passed by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee with overwhelming bipartisan support:

Native Education Support and Training (NEST) Act – Recruits and retains more educators in Indian Country by establishing new scholarships, federal student loan forgiveness plans, and teacher development courses for prospective and existing educators who commit to teaching at schools that serve a high population of Native students or a Bureau of Indian Education school.

Tribal Early Childhood Act – Improves access to early childhood education for tribal youth by better coordinating existing Department of Health and Human Services tribal early education initiatives, providing additional flexibility to establish or expand tribally-developed early childhood initiatives in Native communities, and recruiting and retaining more early childhood teachers to Native American preschools.

SAFETY Act – Improves education facilities in Indian Country by increasing grant funding for the construction and upgrade of classrooms, teacher housing, college dormitories, STEM labs, and vocational facilities for Bureau of Indian Education schools, Tribal colleges and universities, and state-run K-12 schools with large American Indian and Alaska Native student populations.

Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts Act – Authorizes $10 million annually for the Department of Justice to administer grants to establish and maintain Tribal Healing to Wellness Courts. These courts adjudicate cases involving alcohol or drug crimes through an extensive supervision and treatment program. These programs focus specifically on holding offenders accountable while also rehabilitating them and getting them treatment, counseling and community support.

All four of Tester’s bills will now be debated on the Senate floor.