In has been well documented that American Indians, particularly those living on reservations, have the lowest levels of education in the country. On Indian reservations, the problems of providing education for Indian children are tied in to the rural nature of these populations—a fact which makes it difficult to find and retain good teachers—as well as cultural differences. Historically, there have been three primary structures for providing education to Indian children: (1) the federal government, primarily through an agency known today as the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); (2) Christian missionary schools which were sometimes financially supported by the federal government; and (3) state and local school systems.
Bureau of Indian Education schools in the 21st century are under-funded and the physical conditions of the schools is poor and sometimes considered dangerous. Denise Juneau, who is running of Montana’s sole member of the House of Representatives, has promised not only to support additional funding for these schools, but also to reform the Bureau so that more of this money actually translates into classroom improvements.
In addition, Juneau has pledged:
“I support the Native Education Support and Training Act to create a system of loan forgiveness, scholarships and additional training for educators who serve in schools with a high percentage of Native American students.”
Denise Juneau is an enrolled member of the Mandan Hidatsa tribes and a Blackfoot descendent. She graduated from Browning High School on the Blackfeet Reservation and obtained her bachelor’s degree in English from Montana State University. She continued her education and earned a master’s from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
She taught in North Dakota and Montana and worked for the state education agency. She then went back to school and received her juris doctorate from the University of Montana School of Law.
Denise Juneau was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. In 2010, as Superintendent, she launched the Schools of Promise initiative which focuses on improving struggling schools, particularly those on reservations. According to Juneau:
“Children who attend designated Schools of Promise often come from deep, rural poverty. Public assistance services are sparse. The complex needs of these students and their families are often unmet and can make graduation difficult to reach.”
She also points out:
“Schools of Promise is helping these struggling schools make significant progress. The program has become a turnaround model for the U.S. Department of Education given its unique student engagement requirements, school board trustee training, and mental health wrap around services. As a member of Congress I will work to strengthen this initiative to better support struggling schools in all Indian Country.”
Denise Juneau is running as a Democrat against a Republican incumbent. She needs our support. To find out more about Denise Juneau, her policies, and how to help, check out her website.