State Law Provisions Regarding Tribal Education Departments as of January 2004

  1. Wisconsin was the first state in the Union to statutorily mention TEDs. In 1995 Wisconsin enacted a statutory American Indian Language and Culture Education Program. Wis. Stat. ?? 115.71 - 115.74. This program encourages school districts with Native American students to establish American Indian language and culture programs as part of the regular education curriculum. Id. at ? 115.72. Where such programs are established, a parent advisory committee must also be established to advise the school board of the committee's views of the program. Id. at ? 115.735. By statute, the school board must include on the committee representatives of existing TEDs, and must get recommendations from the TEDs for other committee member appointments. Id.

  2. In 1999 Montana became the second state to mention TEDs. Mont. Code Ann. ?? 20-1-501 - 20-1-503 (1999). Montana's new law is intended to help implement Montana's unique express constitutional recognition of the importance of Indian education. "The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural integrity." Mont. Const. art. X, ? 1(2). Among other things, the new law requires public schools and their staff to work with tribes and to include tribal heritage and contributions in providing instruction, implementing educational goals, and adopting education rules. Mont. Code. Ann. ? 20-1-501(2)(b). For purposes of this instruction in American Indian studies, the definition of "instruction" includes "inservice training provided by a local board of trustees of a school district, which is developed and conducted in cooperation with tribal education departments, tribal community colleges, or other recognized Indian education resources specialists . . . . " Id. at ? 20-1-502(2)(c).

    In 2003, the Montana legislature adopted a Joint Resolution requesting the State-Tribal Relations Committee to gather information about drop out rates, graduation rates, and at risk factors among Indian students in the state's public schools, and to develop a strategic plan to address the findings. Mont. H. R. J. Res. 8, 58th Sess. (2003). In implementing this project, the Committee must collaborate with the State Board of Education, the State Board of Regents, the Office of Public Instruction, school districts, education organizations, and TEDs. Id.

  3. In 2003, in its new Indian Education Act, New Mexico became the third state to statutorily mention TEDs. N.M. Stat. Ann. 22-23A-1 - 22-23A-8, see specifically 22-23A-2. This pathmarking state legislation also lists TEDs as among the stakeholders and collaborators who can improve education for tribal students.

Thus, in less than the last ten years, three state legislatures - without federal mandate - have recognized TEDs This recognition must be credited to the hard work of tribes, TEDs, Indian educators, and their counterparts at the state level, who are willing to accept a return to tribal governance of education.


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