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Letter to Dianne Feinstein and Wayne Allard, Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Re: Fund Indian Education Program

Johnson Fights to Fund Indian Education Program

Joins colleagues to reverse President's budget proposal

U.S. Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) today joined with colleagues in fighting to fund the Johnson-O'Malley grant program after the President eliminated funding for the program his Fiscal Year 2009 budget proposal. Johnson sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior asking they continue to fund the program and provide Native students with a quality education. Johnson is a member of the subcommittee and of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

"Students and school administrators in Indian Country rely on the Johnson-O'Malley program for everything from SAT preparation and afterschool programs to athletic equipment. In zeroing funding for this program, the President has shown an unfortunate disregard for the needs of our Native population," Johnson said. "As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am committed to working with my colleagues to restore this critical funding and provide students in South Dakota with the resources they need to receive a quality education."

The JOM program received a total of $19.7 million in funding in FY 07 and $21.4 million in FY 08. The President has asked for zero funding for the program under his FY 09 budget proposal.

This program affects the approximately 93% of Indian students who attend public schools in 23 states. The Johnson-O'Malley grant program has successfully supported schools with a commitment to meeting the needs of Indian students since 1936.

A Copy of the Letter is Below:

Dear Chairwoman Feinstein and Ranking Member Allard:

American Indian students in public schools across the United States rely on Johnson O'Malley funding to provide supplemental assistance for academic programming and other related educational needs. Without the Johnson O'Malley program, Native students of all academic standings, both remedial and gifted, would not be able to afford things such as SAT preparation, athletic equipment, eye glasses, after school tutoring, or culturally specific education. Johnson O'Malley funding equips Indian students, most of whom living in remote and impoverished parts of the country, a chance to compete and grow within the educational system.

The President's budget request for fiscal year 2009 recommends zero funding for the Johnson O'Malley Program. We respectfully request that funding for Johnson O'Malley be restored to a total level of $24 million spread across the two separate budget activities from which it receives funding, the Tribal Government and Bureau of Indian Education line items.

The administration justifies its recommendation to cut the program by claiming that Johnson O'Malley dollars are duplicative of other programs. This is simply not true. The program's mandate does not require funding to go toward the goal of meeting certain Annual Yearly Progress standards as it was designed specifically to provide supplemental assistance to Indian students. Additionally, as the statute permits, the program allows parents to be involved with the design of the program through Local Education Committees.

Consequently, Johnson O'Malley funding addresses special educational and community needs that cannot be met by other programs serving American Indian children. Without a doubt, public school systems do better because of their ability to tap into Johnson O'Malley funds. We are very grateful for your commitment to the Johnson O'Malley grant program in the past. As we work together to improve the lives of Indian students in public schools, we remain hopeful that the Committee will fully fund the Johnson O'Malley program for fiscal year 2009.


Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-HI)

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA)

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT)

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)

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