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Minnesota's Native American Educators Lobby State for More Funding

Educators from Minnesota's four tribal schools are asking for more funding from the state to supplement what they say is inadequate federal funding for schools, according to a recent story by MPR News.

The request comes on the heels of a state Department of Education working group report, which recommended more state funding to boost early childhood programs and mentorship initiatives in districts with American Indian students. The report also recommended more funding for Minnesota's tribal schools.

Fewer than 3 percent of students in Minnesota are American Indian, and those students have one of the lowest graduation rates in the nation. Only 51 percent of Minnesota's Native students graduate, according to recently released data from the state's education department, compared to the state average of 81 percent. Educators say that's partly due to inadequate funding and resources. At the state's tribal schools, federal money provides $5,000 per pupil, about half of what other school districts in Minnesota receive from the state for each pupil, according to the article.

At a recent state education committee meeting Joan LaVoy, director of education for the White Earth reservation in Minnesota, told lawmakers that the low graduation rate is unacceptable. "The state of Minnesota must support our schools, teachers, students and families to increase the achievement rate and outcomes of our Indian students."

The state of Indian education has been an increasing focus of the Obama administration. This month, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell kicked off a listening tour in Arizona to learn more about the challenges that Native American youth face. President Barack Obama's fiscal 2016 budget request is asking for more funds to boost the college- and career-readiness of Native American youth, and also seeks more funding to repair deteriorating tribal schools and to expand computer and Internet access at schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education.

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