Tester Sponsors Bill to Strengthen Benefits for Teachers in Indian Country

Senator Holds Washington Accountable to Strengthen Montana Schools

(U.S .Senate)-U.S. Senator Jon Tester is throwing his support behind a bill to ensure teachers in Indian Country get fair benefits.

Tester is sponsoring the bipartisan Tribal School Federal Insurance Parity Act to change current law and strengthen access to benefits for teachers at tribal schools, which will help recruit and retain quality teachers in Montana.

“Strong teachers equal strong schools,” said Tester, a former school teacher. “Many students in Indian Country haven’t had the consistency in the classroom that they need to reach their full potential and this bill will better guarantee that effective teachers stay put to help their students thrive.”

Teachers who currently teach at Tribal Grant Schools are not eligible to access quality health and life insurance plans through the federal government’s Federal Employees Health Benefits and Federal Employees Group Life Insurance programs.

Tester’s bill will change the law and allow teachers at Tribal Grant Schools to be eligible for the federal government’s health and life insurance plans.

Montana has two Tribal Grant Schools, the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School and the Two Eagle River School in Pablo. Both of these schools are federally funded through the Tribally Controlled Schools Act.

If Tester’s bill becomes law, both schools would be required to pay the government’s contribution towards their insurance premiums and their teachers would be able to access insurance plans under the Federal Employees Health Benefits and Federal Employees Group Life Insurance programs.

Tester is also sponsoring the NEST Act to address teachers shortages in Indian Country by providing scholarships, loan forgiveness, and professional development opportunities to teachers who commit to working at schools with a large number of Native American students.

Tester’s bill is cosponsored by Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).