WASHINGTON - The national education bill passed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday greatly expands programs designed to help Alaska Natives do better in school.
The bill also includes, for the first time, authority for federal money to be spent on construction of vocational schools in rural Alaska.
The Senate approved the plan on an 87-10 vote, giving President Bush a decisive victory on his top domestic priority. The House approved the measure last week, 381-41. Bush is expected to sign the bill into law within days.
U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens' additions to the bill include programs to educate Native students who want to become teachers, programs to improve Native performance on standardized tests and the authorization of federal funds to develop regional vocational schools in rural Alaska, including boarding schools for secondary and post-secondary students.
The bill also includes programs to teach parenting skills, continue an urban-rural exchange program for high school students and a program to reduce the drop-out rate among Alaska Natives.
Stevens, an Alaska Republican, and other members of the Senate Appropriations Committee provided their justification for the programs in an Oct. 11 report.
"It has been brought to the committee's attention that in urban areas, 60 percent of Alaska Natives entering high school do not graduate, and that Alaska Natives' test scores are on average 40 percent lower than those of other students," the report said. "In some districts, none of the Alaska Native elementary students and 40 percent of Native high school students are performing at their grade level."
Under the bill passed Tuesday, called the No Child Left Behind Act, the programs will be authorized in law for the next seven years. Only a line in an appropriation bill will be necessary to maintain them.
Details of the programs include:
Education for parents and caregivers of Native children, including parenting education provided through in-home visitation of new mothers, $1 million for fiscal year 2002 and each of the six succeeding fiscal years.
Cultural education programs operated by the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage. The center and the Inupiat Heritage Center are each authorized to receive a minimum of $2 million for each of the next seven fiscal years.
The Rose Cultural Exchange Program, designed to share Native culture with urban students in a rural setting, $1 million for each of the next seven fiscal years.
Drop-out prevention programs, $2 million for each of the next seven fiscal years.
The Alaska Initiative for Community Engagement Program, $2 million for each of the next seven fiscal years.
Career preparation activities to enable Native children and adults to prepare for meaningful employment, including tech-prep, mentoring, training and apprenticeship activities.
Operational support and authorization of construction funding and equipment to develop regional vocational schools in rural areas of Alaska, including boarding schools for Native students grades nine through 12 and higher levels of education.
Remedial and enrichment programs to assist Native students in performing at a high level on standardized tests.
Education and training of Native students enrolled in a degree program that will lead to certification or licensing as teachers.