Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Hale: Neighboring states should work together to transport students who must cross state borders to go to school

Hale: Neighboring states should work together to transport students who must cross state borders to go to school

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Rep. Albert Hale, D-St. Michaels (District 7), recently discussed school district transportation challenges facing Native American students who must travel across state borders to attend Arizona schools with the New Mexico State Indian Affairs Committee.  Hale released this statement related to this discussion:

“Arizona continues to experience a cross-border flow of students from New Mexico and Utah. This is in part due to the fact that some of the out-of-state students reside closer to Arizona schools. Arizona allows some out-of-state school districts to enter into an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to ensure students have access to education opportunities and to avoid financial hardships. The school districts can transport or contract for transportation for these students. However, route miles run to transport non-resident students are not funded by the state. Transportation costs in addition to other costs of education should be part of the IGA.

“Neighboring states must work together to develop a sustainable funding mechanism for the costs of education, including the transportation of our students who are crossing state lines to get an education. Other states have laws that address students crossing state borders into other school districts. However, except for Arizona, the states do not address the education costs (tuition, transportation, etc.) related to its students who cross the state lines to attend school in the neighboring state.

“Arizona school districts have already developed and presented IGAs to New Mexico. The Window Rock School District proposed an IGA with the Gallup-McKinley County School District. At this point, New Mexico has not acted on this proposal. This is likely because, under New Mexico’s laws, this type of IGA must be approved by the state’s secretary of education and director of finance administration. This process stalled while waiting for this approval.

“I recommend that New Mexico immediately adopt a law authorizing local school districts to enter into IGAs related to the education of students attending schools in neighboring states. Without these changes, the students could be adversely affected. Often times this issue affects Navajo students who live within the Navajo Nation, which straddles the Arizona and New Mexico border. School is back in session. Finding a solution to this issue must be an immediate priority.”

Hale added that recently the New Mexico Indian Affairs Committee requested a letter be sent to the New Mexico governor and secretary of education calling for a meeting to develop a suitable IGA. The IAC also requested a letter go to the New Mexico Department of Finance and Administration secretary asking why the department did not approve an earlier IGA addressing these issues.

Hale said there have been reports from community members that some students must travel two hours by bus to go to their assigned schools and that there are already more than 600 students crossing state borders to attend school.

Rep. Hale is an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation. He was born in Ganado and raised in Klagetoh, Arizona. He is Ashiihi (Salt), born for Todichiini (Bitter Water). His maternal grandparents are Hanaghani (Walk About clan). His paternal grandparents are Kiyanii (Tall House clan). He is a 1969 graduate of Fort Wingate High School, a Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school located east of Gallup, New Mexico. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona (1973), and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of New Mexico School of Law, Albuquerque, New Mexico (1977), and an honorary Juris Doctor degree from Phoenix School of Law (2012).  He is the former President of the Navajo Nation.


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