Educators and administrators may no longer dismiss the concerns of the Native community when it comes to how their kids are educated in public school.

8 Facts Parents Need to Know About Tribal Consultation in Public Education

Tanya H. Lee

Educators and administrators may no longer dismiss the concerns of the American Indian and Alaska Native community when it comes to how their kids are educated—and treated—in public schools. A provision in the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 requires that schools consult with tribes regarding federally-funded educational programs in which AI/AN students participate.

The U.S. Department of Education recently issued guidance detailing the steps states and school districts must take to help ensure the ideas, opinions and requests of tribal leaders, educators and organizations are heard, respected and considered. Almost half a million AI/AN students attend public schools, representing more than 90 percent of the AI/AN school-age population.

Here are 8 facts parents need to know about the recently issued guidance:

A local educational agency (LEA) in which more than 50 percent of its enrollment is AI/AN students must consult with local tribes before applying for federal formula grant funding for the 2017-2018 school year.

An LEA is an administrative unit of a state’s public elementary and secondary school system; for example, an LEA could be a single charter school, a single school district or a group of school districts. Your child’s school or your state department of education can tell you which LEA is responsible for your child’s school.

LEAs that received Indian education formula grants of over $40,000 in the previous fiscal year are also subject to the tribal consultation requirement.

The U.S. Education Department’s Bernard Garcia ([email protected]) is available to help determine if a specific LEA is required to consult with tribes.

Consultation must be timely. Tribes must be consulted early in the planning process so they have time to contribute their ideas for the programs the federal government funds to benefit their children.

Consultation must be meaningful. LEAs must make sure that tribes and their representatives have the opportunity to offer input and comment on plans for any of the covered federal programs (see below) in their children’s schools. “An LEA should consult before it makes a final decision on significant and substantive issues related to the content of the plans” for the programs, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

LEAs must maintain records to show that the required tribal consultations have been held.

LEAs must consult with local tribes before making plans or submitting applications for federal funding for these programs: Title I, Part A (Improving Basic Programs Operated by State and Local Educational Agencies); Title I, Part C (Education of Migratory Children); Title I, Part D (Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth who are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk); Title II, Part A (Supporting Effective Instruction); Title III, Part A (English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act); Title IV, Part A (Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants); Title IV, Part B (21st  Century Community Learning Centers); Title V, Part B, subpart 2 (Rural and Low-Income School Program); Title VI, Part A, subpart 1 (Indian Education Formula Grants to Local Educational Agencies).

For more information on tribal consultation under the new federal education law, contact the Office of Indian Education (OIE) at [email protected].

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