May 28, 2009
Contact: Sandra Abrevaya,|
Billings, Montana — U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan visited Billings, Mont., on Wednesday, May 27, as part of his "Listening and Learning" tour. He was joined by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, Sen. Jon Tester and Gov. Brian Schweitzer. The day included visits to Lame Deer High School and Northern Cheyenne Reservation, both in Lame Deer, Mont.; Broadwater Elementary School in Billings; as well as a news conference at Montana State University-Billings and a roundtable meeting with Montana's tribal leaders.
At Lame Deer High School, Secretary Duncan met with more than 20 education and school officials, students and parents in a style similar to the traditional "Talking Circle" to listen and learn about education issues specific to the area. Larry Medicine Bull, Lame Deer's American Indian Culture and Government teacher, began the conversation with an opening in the Cheyenne language—a tradition that asked everyone in the circle to speak freely and respect the conversation.
During the discussion, students raised concerns that achievement expectations for them were very low, and they asked that the bar be raised. School officials also raised concerns that parental involvement needs significant improvement, citing examples of low attendance at the school's parent meetings. In addition, Veronica Small-Eastman, Lame Deer's principal, addressed the need for better resources at the elementary school, as well as her hopes to equip each high-school student with a laptop.
"These are really smart children who want the bar raised for them," Duncan said later. "They're committed. They're passionate. And they're hard-working. If we raise the expectations for these students, I am confident they will work to meet them."
Duncan, Donovan, Tester and Schweitzer also visited a Northern Cheyenne Tribal Council Meeting to participate in a Friendship Ceremony. Following the ceremony, they visited Broadwater Elementary School to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the school. In the afternoon, they held a press conference to discuss the day's events and then went into a two-hour meeting with tribal leaders to discuss specific housing and education needs on the state's seven reservations.
Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Montana is likely to receive more than $240 million to save jobs and drive reform. The state also is eligible to apply for a portion of the $5 billion set aside in ARRA's State Fiscal Stabilization Fund that Secretary Duncan can award through competitive grants. The U.S. Department of Education will conduct a national competition among states for a $4.35 billion state incentive "Race to the Top" fund to improve education quality and results statewide.
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