Republicans in the joint Appropriatons Education Subcommittee ought to be deeply ashamed of themselves for their recent vote to cut $2.9 million from the Office of Public Instruction's Indian Education Office. Just one session after finally implementing the constitutional mandate of preserving American Indian culture in our educational system, the GOP has turned its back on a unique legal promise to preserve heritage in our schools.
Though this Republican group has demonstrated a total lack of support for education, this is an especially egregious cut. I've seen the program work in action. Our high school has been able to add much-needed works by American Indian authors to our curriculum and been able to use the expertise of an Indian educator in our classrooms. The committment has moved Indian education from the margins of our curriculum to a place of importance, appropriate for our state and its people. These programs need continued support if Montana schools hope to make good on their commitment to include Indian culture in our programs in a meaningful ways beyond token representations.
Don't buy Republican answers that this vote doesn't matter, or that it can be reversed. Even if that is the case, the message this vote sends is a clear one: neither following the constitution nor promoting Indian culture in education is important to Montana Republicans. As Helena educator Joe Anderson describes it, "the cut is part of a thirty year tradition of broken promises by the state government." Even if the money is restored later in the budget process, the initial cut demonstrates priorities at odds with the interests of Montana students and Indian heritage.
Contact your representative and demand an explanation for these cuts, and ask they work to see that the funds are restored. After a thirty year wait to honor our constitutional commitment, it's the least we can do.