Tester, Colleagues Introduce Bill Giving Tribal Colleges and Universities a Stronger Voice in Education Funding

Senators’ bill would require Department of Education to consider National Advisory Council on Indian Education’s annual report when preparing annual budget

U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) joined his colleagues Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), in introducing the National Advisory Council on Indian Education Improvement Act. The bill would give Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) greater input over federal funding discussions that impact them. 

“Tribal Colleges and Universities play a key role in educating Montana’s future leaders,”Tester said. “That’s why it’s critically important that TCU leaders have the chance to work directly with the Departments of Education and the Interior to make sure federal dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support TCU students, and look forward to getting this bill across the finish line.”

“Tribal Colleges and Universities deserve a seat at the table.” Fischer said. “This legislation will ensure the Depts. of Education and Interior hear directly from TCU leaders about their specific needs and how federal resources can address them. I appreciate the strong, bipartisan support our bill has already received, and I’ll continue to work with my Senate colleagues to get this done.”

“Leaders of Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) know the needs of their organizations, faculty and students better than anyone else,” Rounds said. “This commonsense bill will enable TCUs to have a voice for how to meet those needs, and it will improve the effectiveness of federal resources. The inclusion of TCU partners will help support the work of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education. I will continue working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this bipartisan legislation, which will have a positive impact on the growth of TCUs for years to come.”

The Department of Education’s Tribal advisory group, the National Advisory Council on Indian Education (NACIE), advises the Secretaries of Education and Interior on programs serving Tribes and their members. As of now, NACIE releases an annual report, but the Department of Education does not have a process for considering NACIE’s report when developing its budget request.

The National Advisory Council on Indian Education Improvement Act would address these challenges by requiring at least one of NACIE’s members be the president of a Tribal College or University and requiring the Secretaries of Education and Interior to consider NACIE’s annual report when preparing their budgets each year.

As a former public school teacher, Senator Tester has fought tooth and nail to ensure Montana’s schools have the support and resources they need to educate our future leaders. Tester has also led the charge to ensure Tribal members have access to higher education and career training. In May of 2020, Tester secured more than $9 million for Montana TCUs through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In March, Tester co-led a bipartisan group of Senators in designating the week of March 13 as “National Tribal Colleges and Universities Week” to highlight the importance of higher education in Indian Country. 

Text of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education Improvement Act can be found here.


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