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Bill to Expand Access to Native Hawaiian Adult Education

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today, U.S. Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI), Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Mark Begich (D-AK) introduced the Native Adult Education and Literacy Act, legislation that would increase educational access to Native communities by awarding competitive grants for Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and Native Hawaiian Education Organizations (NHEOs). Hirono announced the legislation on Thursday to Native education advocates at the National Indian Education Association Legislative Summit in Washington, D.C. You can view her remarks here:

This bipartisan coalition of Senators represents diverse Native peoples across the country.

"Current law doesn't do enough to respond to low high school completion rates, basic literacy skills and employment rates of adult American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians," said Hirono. "This bill will address this pressing issue by reserving a portion of Workforce Investment Act funding to provide grants directly to Tribal Colleges and Universities, or to Native Hawaiian Education Organizations. I recently visited Molokai Middle School, which has a high Native Hawaiian population. Thanks to a Native Hawaiian Education Act grant to support teacher training, educators learned how to teach STEM subjects using Native Hawaiian values and culture, and Molokai Middle has since been recognized as the most improved school in the state. When local communities buy into improving a school, and curriculum recognizes Native culture and gives students a sense of place, much is possible."

"Tribal Colleges and Universities and Native Hawaiian Education Organizations face unique challenges as they aim to prepare American Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian students -- from young adults to senior citizens -- to enter the workforce," Sen. Moran said. "The Native Adult Education and Literacy Act would make certain TCUs and NHEOs have access to the resources they need to prepare their students to be successful in the workplace, provide for their families, and contribute to the economy."

"This bill reduces red tape, strengthens our workforce and makes our economy stronger by opening up opportunities in higher education to Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians," said Begich. "This new policy will go a long way in Alaska by providing funds directly to tribal colleges and Native Hawaiian education organizations so they can focus on programs that provide students with the real-world skills they need. It will help tribal colleges like Ilisagvik College in Barrow, Alaska to continue their good work."

By reserving a portion of adult education and literacy funding in the Workforce Investment Act, the Native Adult Education and Literacy Act would give organizations with a proven record of improving educational success for Native adults the opportunity to compete for direct grants. Because it utilizes existing funding, the bill would not increase spending or create a new program. The bill also clarifies that TCUs and NHEOs are eligible providers for state sub-grants. Under current law, TCUs and NHEOs are rarely able to access federal funds. There has not been a similar appropriation for Native adult education programs since 1995.

The Native Adult Education and Literacy Act has been endorsed by organizations including the National Congress of American Indians; National Indian Education Association; and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

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