AIM, Minneapolis schools to take on education funding issues

Maggie Hessel-Mial

The American Indian Movement organization met with Minneapolis School Board officials Tuesday to talk about and work to combat issues such as low American Indian graduation rates and questionable government funding practices for local American Indian tribes.

“Eighty-seven percent of Indian children are dropping out of school before high school graduation,” said Clyde Bellecourt, AIM’s director. “We are demanding a change at the national level to combat this problem.”

AIM members are calling for a federal audit to determine how money intended for American Indian tribes is being allocated. Organization members fear American Indian children are not receiving their share of federal dollars intended for education.

The 12-Point Plan, a Minneapolis School District measure looking to improve what AIM sees as shortcomings in the school system, includes ways to increase graduation rates and raise the overall academic performance of children of color.

“The Minneapolis superintendent met with Latino, American Indian and African-American communities to hear concerns,” said Melissa Winter, spokeswoman for the school district. “The solution involves working with the community to collaborate to find the answer.”

Francis Fairbanks, a member of AIM, said she wants to be involved in improving the system.

“The Indian people are like the forgotten child; something needs to be done,” she said.

With any problem, a solution is not always easy, Winters stressed.

“It’ll take some time,” she said. “But the first step is to work together. We know that in education, to make a change, you must have the community, parents and students at the table to solve the problem.”

School district funding has been cut by nearly $30 million, a move that might cause some projects to be put on hold. The 12-Point Plan is one of the projects that requires funding.

“We have realized the importance of this issue, and are working to make sure the plan is at the top of our priority list,” Winter said.

This issue is one close to the hearts of the members of the American Indian community, Bellecourt said.

“We’re prepared to take this to court if we have to,” he said. “We’re doing this so that one day these Indian students can be doctors or lawyers or teachers.

“Something is wrong with the educational system and we want to be part of the solution.”

 

Maggie Hessel-Mial welcomes comments at [email protected]