Monday, February 24, 2014

Native American Caucus meeting focuses on education

Native American Caucus meeting focuses on education

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Recently the Arizona Legislature’s Native American Caucus met to discuss challenges and opportunities for Native American students who want to pursue higher education. The group heard recommendations from experts who work in the area of Native American students and community education issues.

“Encouraging our youth to pursue a higher education and to have the resources to realize that dream is only the first step,” said Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michael’s (District 7). “Once in college, these students need support. That support could include financial help or mentorship and guidance. Also, retention is a major challenge for Native American students that needs to be addressed.”

Arizona Board of Regents Treasurer LuAnn Leonard gave an update of the board’s priorities for Native American education, which include recruitment and retention, greater access to university enrollment for community college students, financial aid, tribal communication and residency classification. The board’s goals are intended to provide resources that would increase access to higher education for Native American students.

As a part of this update, representatives from the three major public universities presented on initiatives their universities have taken to increase the success of American Indian students. These initiatives included community service, research expansion and increasing graduation rates.

The Deputy Associate Superintendent of Native American Education and Outreach, Debora Norris, also spoke about the progress that the Department of Education has made in helping Native American students succeed in public education. She outlined recommendations for improving education within indigenous communities. These recommendations focused on funding, programs, and policies that would benefit Native American education.

Sen. Carlyle Begay, D-Ganado (District 7), shared some startling statistics about graduation rates among Native American students.

“As a Legislature, we need to improve and invest in our state universities, tribal and community colleges by improving Arizona’s statewide education system, especially for American Indian students. American Indian students have one of the lowest graduation rates among any student subgroup in Arizona. Sixty-five percent of Native American students graduated high school within four years in 2012, compared to 77 percent of all students and 84 percent of white students,” Begay said. “The six-year college graduation rate for Native American students in Arizona is the lowest of any demographic group at 38.4 percent. The six-year college completion rates for white students is 59.4 percent; for Hispanic students, it is 48.4 percent; for black students, it is 44 percent. We need to give every American Indian student an opportunity to get an education, to apply themselves as best as they can, and to make a difference.”

Hale added that investing in Native American education is beneficial for the state.

“Education is the key to moving Arizona forward, and we must devote our resources to ensuring our young people will have the opportunities they need to be successful,” Hale said. “This gives us an opportunity to develop a framework for education policy that will benefit Native American students and the state.”

The Native American Caucus would like to encourage people to get involved in the legislative process and to make sure their voices are heard. To receive a registration form for a Request to Speak System account, please email Melissa Upshaw at or call the office of Rep. Hale at 602-926-4323. Once your account is created, you will receive the Request to Speak System Manual by email and you can comment on bills being heard in committees through your online access by going to and clicking the Request to Speak System link.


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