Shawnee, OK Consultation
The Department of Education participated in a consultation with regional Tribal Leaders in Shawnee, OK on April 19, 2010. This consultation was hosted by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation at FireLake Grand Casino.
The event, which was moderated by Citizen Potawatomi Nation Vice President Linda Capps and Department of Education General Counsel Charles P. Rose, included sixty-two participants. Among them were Department officials Jenelle Leonard, Acting Director of the Office of Indian Education; Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools; and Jim Shelton, Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement. The Department of the Interior was also in attendance, represented by Tracie Stevens, Policy Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs.
Tribal Leaders began the meeting by asserting their desire to be involved at all stages of the policymaking process. In particular, some expressed concern that the Department of Education had almost completely developed its plan for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act prior to the consultation.
Other Tribal Officials commented that education policies should not be designed as "one-size-fits-all" solutions to problems. They stated that the needs of students and schools in isolated, rural areas are very different from the needs of students and schools in large, metropolitan areas. Therefore, they concluded, it makes little sense to adopt identical policies for both types of area. These officials were particularly worried that competitive grant programs may place small school districts with minimal resources at a disadvantage because it is so expensive to hire professional grant application writers.
Tribal sovereignty over education policy was also an important subject of discussion. According to the Tribal Leaders, state educational agencies (SEAs) frequently neglect to consult tribes before making policy decisions or distributing funding. Tribal Officials suggested that better coordination with SEAs might help to solve this problem, although many requested that Tribal education agencies be given the authority to administer funding directly.
The consultation included two breakout sessions after the main discussion. One, led by Kevin Jennings, focused on safety within schools, while the other, led by Jim Shelton, focused on innovation. These sessions elicited many comments and ideas about topics such as training educators to be more culturally sensitive, recruiting American Indians and Alaska Natives to become teachers, increasing the curricular focus on American Indian and Alaska Native language and culture, and exploring new distance learning options for rural communities.