Assistant Secretary Washburn Announces $2 million in Grants to Build the Capacity of Tribal Education Departments

Funds will enable tribes to plan for directly operating BIE-funded schools on their lands and improving student educational outcomes

Source: U.S. Department of the Interior
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn today announced that grants ranging from $25,000 to $150,000 per fiscal year are available for federally recognized tribes and their education departments. The grants are designed to help tribes assume control of Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-funded schools in their communities, promote tribal education capacity, and provide academically rigorous and culturally appropriate education to Indian students on their reservations and trust lands.
Eligible tribal governments may apply for these grants by responding to the Request for Proposals that the BIE published on May 15, 2015, in the Federal Register.
“This grant program reflects President Obama’s commitment to tribal self-governance and self-determination, and will support tribal educators who best understand the unique needs of their communities as they strengthen their capacity to assume full control of BIE-funded schools on their reservations,”said Secretary Jewell, who chairs the White House Council on Native American Affairs. “It is a critical step in redesigning the BIE from a direct provider of education into an innovative organization that will serve as a capacity-builder and service-provider to tribes with BIE-funded schools.”
“With this announcement, we are taking the next major step in our efforts to return the education of Indian children to their tribes,” Assistant Secretary Washburn said. “We understand that tribal leaders, educators and parents have the greatest need to ensure that their children receive a world-class education, and with this effort, we will see to it that tribes can assume total control over the BIE-funded schools in their communities to improve the educational outcomes for their students.  We’re grateful Congress understands the importance of this process and appropriated funding to support this effort.”
“This grant solicitation carries out recommendations of Secretary Jewell and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Blueprint for Reform to transform the Bureau of Indian Education from a school administrator into a capacity builder and service provider to support tribes in educating their children and youth,” said BIE Director Dr. Charles M. “Monty” Roessel. “These grants will help tribes and their tribal departments of education to assume control of the BIE-funded schools serving their communities.”
The Blueprint for Reform, issued in June 2014 following consultation with tribal leaders, is an initiative of the White House Council on Native American Affairs, chaired by Secretary Jewell.
President Obama established the Council as part of his commitment to engage in a true and lasting government-to-government relationship with federally recognized tribes in a more coordinated and effective manner, including promoting and sustaining prosperous and resilient tribal communities. 
Jewell then issued a Secretarial Order to begin restructuring BIE from solely a provider of education to a capacity-builder and education service-provider to tribes. The goal of this transformation is to give tribes the ability themselves to provide an academically rigorous and culturally appropriate education to their students, according to their needs.
The Blueprint made several recommendations regarding the BIE’s budget. Interior should invest in the school system’s infrastructure, including new school construction, and align its budget to support tribal self-determination by requesting and increasing tribal grant and Tribal Grant Support Costs for tribally controlled grant schools.
Under the solicitation announced today, grants will range from $25,000 to $150,000 per fiscal year depending on the project, number of educational programs impacted, project design, and expected outcomes. Subject to the availability of appropriated funds, grants will be provided for three years and, depending on performance, may be renewed for additional two-year terms.
Grant funds will support program goals for the following areas that promote tribal education capacity-building:
·         To provide for the development and enforcement of tribal educational codes, including tribal educational policies and tribal standards applicable to curriculum, personnel, students, facilities, and support programs;
·         To facilitate tribal control in all matters relating to the education of Indian children on reservations and on former reservations in Oklahoma; and
·         To provide for the development of coordinated educational programs on reservations and on former reservations in Oklahoma by encouraging tribal administrative support of all BIE-funded educational programs, as well as encouraging tribal cooperation and coordination with entities carrying out all educational programs receiving financial support from other federal agencies, state agencies or private entities.
Top priority will be given to applicants that meet the following conditions:
·         Serves three or more BIE-funded schools (less priority will be given if the applicant has less than three schools, but with at least one BIE-funded school).
·         Provides coordinating services and technical assistance to all relevant BIE-funded schools.
·         Monitors and audits its grant funds by or through its Tribal Education Department (TED)
·         And offers a plan and schedule that provides for:
o   Its TED to assume all assets and functions of the Bureau agency office associated with the tribe to the extent the assets and functions relate to education;
o   The termination by the BIE of all such functions and office at the times of such assumption; and
o   The assumption to occur over the term of the grant, unless mutually agreeable to the tribal governing body and the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, the period in which such assumption is to occur may be modified, reduced or extended after the initial year of the grant.
The BIE will assist tribes in the development and operation of TEDs for the purpose of planning and coordinating all educational programs of the tribe. Each proposal must include a project narrative, a budget narrative, a work plan outline, and a project coordinator to serve as the point of contact for the program. The project coordinator is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the TED fulfills the obligations of its grant.
The BIE will provide pre-grant application training at several sites to support tribes and TEDs in applying for grants. Details on location and times will be made available here.
The BIE oversees 183 elementary and secondary schools, located on 64 reservations in 23 states, serving more than 48,000 students. Of these, 59 are BIE-operated and 124 are tribally operated under Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act contracts or Tribally Controlled Schools Act grants. BIE also funds or operates off-reservation boarding schools and peripheral dormitories near reservations for students attending public schools.

Budget Cuts Threaten Fish and Wildlife, Co-management

Being Frank

By Lorraine Loomis, Chair, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission 

Years of declining funding combined with a current $2 billion state budget deficit leaves the treaty Indian tribes in western Washington wondering if the Department of Fish and Wildlife will be able to meet its natural resources management responsibilities.

The shortfall led Gov. Jay Inslee to instruct state agencies to submit budget reduction options equal to 15 percent of the money they receive from the state’s general fund. While there is hope that the governor might spare some or all of the nearly $11 million in budget cut options proposed by WDFW, the results would be devastating if they become a reality.

Hatchery closures and production cuts would mean the loss of more than 30 million salmon and steelhead annually. Fewer enforcement officers would be employed, leaving some areas with little or no coverage. Resource protection would be further decreased by reductions to the department’s Hydraulic Project Approval program that regulates construction in state waters.

In just the past six years, the department has cut more than $50 million from its budget, much of it from hatchery production. During that time tribes have picked up the tab to keep salmon coming home for everyone who lives here. Tribes are doing everything from taking over the operation of some state hatcheries to buying fish food and making donations of cash and labor to keep up production at other state facilities. That is in addition to the 40 million salmon and steelhead produced annually at tribal hatcheries.

Meanwhile, wild salmon populations continue to decline because of the ongoing loss of habitat that state government is unable to stop. The loss of wild salmon and their habitat has already severely restricted the tribes’ abilities to exercise our treaty-reserved fishing rights. Additional state budget cuts would only worsen the situation.

Budget problems do not excuse the state from its obligations to follow federal law and uphold commitments made by the United States in treaties with Indian tribes. Our treaties and the court decisions that upheld them are considered the “supreme law of the land” under the U.S. Constitution. As salmon co-manager with the tribes, the state of Washington does not have the option of turning its back and walking away.

Hatchery programs are especially important to fulfilling the treaty right that salmon must be available for tribes to harvest. Without hatcheries and the fish they provide, there would be no fishing at all by anyone in western Washington. We must have hatcheries for as long as natural salmon production continues to be limited by poor habitat.

Further cuts to WDFW’s budget would be another step backward in our efforts to save the salmon. Gov. Inslee should look someplace else for the funding that the state needs. He should not try to balance the state budget on the backs of the fish and wildlife resources and the people who depend on them.


BIA’s Funding Maze Hampers Tribal Self- Governance

Gale Courey Toensing, Indian Country Today


A funding system that routes money through a bureaucratic maze with more than a dozen checkpoints before it arrives at its destination – tribal governments – is one of the obstacles Indian country faces in its quest for self-governance, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs said at the National Congress of American Indians annual meeting.

Rube Goldberghimself couldnt have come out with a more complicated system!” Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn said, showing the amused audience a mind-boggling, arrow-marked illustration of how the funds flow. Washburn spoke to a full crowd packed into the General Assembly hall at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta where the NCAI held its 71stannual Convention & Marketplace October 26-31.



The theme of this year’s NCAImeeting was “Tribal Governance for the Next Generation.” With that theme in mind. Brian Cladoosby, NCAI president and chair of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, encouraged NCAI member tribes “to remember the guidance of the generations that came before us while we move forward to continue to build a strong future to the generations to come.”

Washburn was among dozens of dignitaries – tribal leaders and federal government officials, including Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell – who spoke at the convention. The convention’s theme prompted him to review what’s been done so far under the Obama administration to advance tribal governance and what remains to be done.

“We’re coming up on the fourth quarter,” Washburn said, referring to the last two years of the Obama administration that will end in 2016. “And it hasn’t been all victories, we’ve had some setbacks.” The top setback has been the failure so far to fix the Supreme Court’s devastating ruling in Carcieri v Salazar,which has hampered efforts to take land into trust for tribes.

“But what I’d like to do in the fourth quarter is really run up the score. We have to join together and work together to do that and NCAI is our best partner in doing that because it’s our best way of getting to tribes,” Washburn said.



Among recent victories Washburn cited the Violence Against Women Act, the Tribal Law and Order Actand the HEARTH Act.

Other achievements include the vastly improved consultation policy, copy3 million in technical assistance grants to 75 different tribes to move forward with energy projects and the settlement of over 80 lawsuits in addition to the Cobell settlement and several water rights cases. A major victory is the growing masses of land the BIA has taken into trust for tribes, despite the Carcieri ruling, Washburn said. “We’re restoring thousands of acres and literally hundreds of square miles to Indian country and that’s an important foundation for tribal governments for the next generation because land … is where a tribe’s sovereignty is the strongest.”

All of these advances have resulted in a little-known consequence that also advances tribal self-governance – the BIA’s reduced workforce from around 17,000 employees in 1981 to around 7,500 employees today. So where’d they all go? “They went to Indian country jobs,” said Washburn. “These jobs are being done better by tribal governments than they were by the federal government. They’re being done in Indian country and the people doing them are accountable to tribal governments.”

But in terms of moving tribal self-governance forward for the next generation, “we’ve got a lot of challenges,” Washburn said. Many of them have to do with how programs are funded. Several laws enacted over the years to encourage and improve tribal self-governance – the 1975 Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act; the 1988 tribal schools act; the Self-Government Demonstration Project Act, the Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Demonstration Act of 1992and others – have different funding requirements. And then there’s the money flow chart, which came to light when Washburn started asking why it took so long to get contract support funding out to the tribes.

“So what we have to some degree is disjointed programs and a lack of coordination between agencies sometimes,” Washburn said. “We must improve this!”

Washburn took ownership of the problem – “This is all on me,” he said – and informed the NCAI assembly that he is working with Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management Tommy Thompson to fix the problem. “We have got to get the money out to tribes quickly so that tribes can use that money when it’s needed. We’re trying!” he said. The audience gave him a standing round of applause.



Indian Country Grapples With Health Funding Shortfalls, Non-Payment

Slowly but surely, tribal governments — especially those in Alaska — are receiving millions of dollars in decades of unpaid contract costs from the Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Liz DeRouen, 49, left, gets her blood pressure checked by medical assistant Jacklyn Stra, right, at the Sonoma County Indian Health Project in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Liz DeRouen, 49, left, gets her blood pressure checked by medical assistant Jacklyn Stra, right, at the Sonoma County Indian Health Project in Santa Rosa, Calif.


By Christine Graef, Mint Press News | September 17, 2014


WASHINGTON — Tribal health programs working to serve native people are not seeing funding of administrative costs keeping pace with need, and the Indian Health Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs owe millions to tribal governments.

“The federal government has broken too many promises with tribes and though we have more work to do, I am pleased that we are seeing good progress with Alaska tribes receiving the money they are owed,” Alaska Sen. Mark Begich told the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium last month. “Failure to pay the full costs is unacceptable and I will continue to use my position on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to keep up the pressure on the federal government.”

The IHS, a Department of Health and Human Services agency, provides health service systems for about 2.2 million of the nation’s estimated 3.4 million American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Funds allocated by the IHS, currently $4.4 billion per year, go toward administering medical care to tribes or are turned over to tribes for them to administer the care themselves. The IHS had been failing to provide full payments of contract costs until the Supreme Court ruled in June 2012 that the government must pay, determining that the tribes had been underpaid “between 77 percent and 92 percent of the tribes’ aggregate contract support costs” during previous decades.

Yet, according to Jacqueline Johnson Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, “payment has not happened.”

“The class action lawyers recently reported to NCAI on the lawyer’s discussions with the Justice Department. Although they couldn’t share much information, they did explain that there are close to 9,000 claim years at issue involving about 500 tribes and 19 years worth of contracts (1994-2013),” she told the U.S. Senate Committee of Indian Affairs last year.

Sen. Begich introduced Senate Bill 2669 in July to the Senate Appropriations Committee
to mandate funding for certain payments to Indian tribes and tribal organization. Additionally, the federal government has treaty and statutory obligations under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975, which requires the government to contract with tribes to operate BIA and IHS programs. The agreement between the government and tribes is embedded in Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution.

At the end of 2013, less than 1 percent of thousands of claims in more than 200 lawsuits filed by tribes seeking a combined $200 billion had been settled — just 16 claims of an estimated 1,600.

Of the 566 nations the federal government recognizes, 229 are spread across the vast 572,000 square miles of Alaska, where they occupy small villages in remote areas — many only accessible by air or boat. For these tribes in remote areas, seeing a doctor might be inconvenient, to say the least, and almost definitely costly.

Lead counsel in the cases establishing government liability for IHS’s failure to pay, Lloyd Miller, an attorney based in Anchorage, Alaska, said IHS is severely underfunded.
“IHS is a prepared health plan paid for with a lot of blood and millions of acres of land,” Miller said. “Because the government took away their lands, there’s a responsibility.”
IHS gets $4.4 billion from Congress annually for what’s estimated to be a $15 billion need to meet the costs, he said.

Miller represents about 60 tribes, each with several claims filed for the costs owed.
In an August 2007 letter to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs requesting an oversight hearing, Alaskan tribal health care providers reminded the committee that the Indian Self-Determination Act requires money to provide federal trust responsibilities.

“We write to once again call your attention to the grave crisis we face as a result of insufficient contract support cost appropriations which, together with Indian Health Service policies, have left our tribal organizations with annual shortfalls running from $2 million to over $8 million. We respectfully request that the Senate Indian Affairs Committee convene an urgent oversight hearing this Fall, to review what has become a genuine crisis in Indian country, and a crisis that has seriously eroded the national policy of Tribal self-governance and the delivery of quality health services to Alaska Native people,” the letter stated.

By August of this year, 12 of Alaska’s tribal health providers received $449 million to resolve contract support costs disputes with the IHS. Another 11 providers were still in negotiations. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, serving more than 143,000 native people, received the largest payment, with a $153 million settlement that includes $115.5 for past-due costs and $37.7 million in interest. At about $128 million, Southcentral Foundation received the next largest settlement.

The NCAI has been working with tribes and the IHS on contract costs since the Indian Self-Determination Act went into effect.

The congress is hosting the annual Tribal Unity Gathering and Legislative Impact Days on Sept. 16 and 17 in Washington. During the event, tribal leaders and representatives will meet with their delegates to the U.S. Congress to encourage action on important delegation before this session ends. IHS appropriations will be among the issues discussed.

“There’s strong support from the House and Senate,” said Amber Eberb, program manager of the NCAI Policy Research Center. “There’s quite a few champions who understand that tribes administering their own programs to respond to their community needs is more effective than a federal agency.”

There’s still progress to be made, Eberb said.
“Contract costs and other treaty issues should not be considered discretionary but mandatory,” Ebarb said. “All program money that uphold treaty agreements should be mandatory. It’s morally correct to do. Perhaps a little difficult to do right now.”


Disparities in well-being

American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) death rates were nearly 50 percent greater than rates among non-Hispanic whites during 1999-2009, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control.

The study was carried out by the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, CDC researchers, the IHS, and partners from tribal groups, universities and state health departments.

It revealed:

Among AI/AN people, cancer is the leading cause of death, followed by heart disease, while the opposite is true for other races studied;

  • Death rates from lung cancer have shown little improvement in AI/AN populations. AI/AN people have the highest prevalence of tobacco use of any population in the United States;
  • Deaths from injuries were higher among AI/AN people compared to non-Hispanic whites;
  • Suicide rates were nearly 50 percent higher for AI/AN people compared to non-Hispanic whites, and more frequent among AI/AN males and persons under age 25;
  • Death rates from motor vehicle crashes, poisoning, and falls were two times higher among AI/AN people than for non-Hispanic whites;
  • Death rates were higher among AI/AN infants compared to non-Hispanic white infants. Sudden infant death syndrome and unintentional injuries were also more common. AI/AN infants were four times more likely to die from pneumonia and influenza;
  • By region, the highest mortality rates were in the Northern Plains and Southern Plains, while the East and Southwest had the lowest.

“Many of the observed excess deaths can be addressed through evidence-based public health interventions,” the report concluded.

In November 2013 testimony before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said:

“I listened very intently yesterday at the tribal summit when the President spoke. I went there specifically to hear what he was going to say on the issue of contract support costs. What I heard him say is, we have heard you loud and clear, but we are still working to find the answers. I don’t think we need to work to find any answers. I think that the court laid it out very, very clearly. It said that full reimbursement will be provided. So we have to make that happen within that budget. We have to make that priority.”

Murkowski said she had listened to the stories of the impact of lack of funds, saying, for example, that the regional health provider in Juneau had to close its alcohol treatment facility. Further north, in the Yukon Delta, the regional health provider laid off 20 employees, permanently closed 40 vacant positions, and reduced services for elders, she continued.

The impacts of the sequestration, she said, also meant that tribes would not be able to reduce waiting times at emergency rooms or outpatient and dental clinics.
“The impact, I think we recognize, has been significant,” she said.

Murkowski submitted comments she received from Alaska Natives around the state, including the Association of Village Council Presidents.


Proposed Increase for IHS Budget

“Tribes have not recovered from sequestration that resulted in across-the-board cuts to all federal programs that tribes are reliant upon. Nowhere was this more impactful than to the Indian Health Services, where due to sequestration, continuing resolutions, and the 16 day government shutdown — healthcare to Indian people was jeopardized,” U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Chairman Jon Tester, of Montana, said in March.

Tami Truette Jerue, tribal administrator and director of social services for the Anvik Tribal Council in Alaska addressed the committee’s oversight hearing in February. The Anvik are an Athabascan village of about 275 members on the west bank of the Yukon River.

Jerue represented the 37 federally recognized tribes that make up the Tanana Chiefs Conference, an inter-tribal health and social services consortium that serves an area of Interior Alaska that is roughly the size of Texas.

She delivered a message from more than 200 tribes across Alaska:
“It is absolutely essential that, without regard to technical land titles and the technical Indian country status of lands or tribal communities, our Tribes must have the tools necessary to combat drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and violence against women. Fighting these scourges in our communities and healing our people cannot be made to stand on technicalities. We need to get to work, and now. And we need Congress’s help to do that. The State is not the problem, because the State is nowhere to be found in most of our Villages….

“Today, the tribes of Alaska come to you, not as victims of a failed governmental policy, but as powerful and responsible advocates for our people. We are stepping up to do what we must do. But without equally firm action from Congress, our people will suffer, we will continue with decades more of litigation battles and loopholes will continue to be found which deny our tribes the funding necessary to improve law and order in our communities.”

In the budget for the 2015 fiscal year, the Obama administration proposed a 4.5 percent increase for IHS, representing a $200 million increase over the current level to $4.6 billion.

The 2015 budget request includes:

  • An additional $50 million to help obtain health care from the private sector through the Purchased/Referred Care program (formerly known as the Contract Health Services program). This program allows for the purchase of essential health care services that the IHS and tribes do not provide in their local facilities;
  • An additional $71 million to support staffing and operating costs at four new and expanded facilities;
  • An additional $30 million to fully fund the estimated amount of contract support costs for new and expanded contracts and compacts in fiscal year 2015. This will help tribes cover the cost of administrative functions for compacts or contracts established under the authority of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act;
  • An additional $31 million to address medical inflation costs;
  • Additional funding to pay costs for new tribes and restoration of reductions in the fiscal year 2014 operating plan.

In his statement, Tester noted the “positive highlights” in the budget request.

“The Committee is pleased that the Administration finally understands its legal obligation to fully fund Contract Support Costs for the both the Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs,” Tester said. “I am particularly encouraged by the $11 million increase for social services and job training to support an initiative to provide a comprehensive and integrated approach to address the problems of violence, poverty, and substance abuse.”


Covering IHS shortfalls with the Affordable Care Act

The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium and more than 50 tribes wrote a letter to President Obama on Oct. 13.

In part, it said, “Among your administration’s most important achievements has been the development of historic settlements with Indian Tribes in several major litigations, its advocacy for amendments to the Indian Health Care Improvement Act and the Violence Against Women’s Act, and its commitment to critical appropriations measures. But when it comes to honoring the Nation’s commitment to the contracting and compacting Tribes who were historically, and illegally, underpaid, and who continue to be underpaid, the administration has permitted fiscal concerns to eclipse the imperative to do justice and to honor the nation’s obligations.”

In July the IHS reached a settlement with the consortium for claims during the years 1999 through 2013. The payment — $39.5 million plus interest — totals about $53 million.
“A lot of tribes had to close down programs because of lack of funds,” Andrea Thomas, outreach and enrollment manager of SEARHC, told MintPress News. “Part of what the settlement can do is bring back what was lost.”
Alaska did not create reservations like the 48 contiguous states, and many Native communities formed consortiums, like SEARHC, to use IHS funding for health care to serve them all.

SEARHC is a nonprofit tribal health consortium of 18 Native communities which serves the health interests of the Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, and other Native people of Southeast Alaska. In 1982, the consortium took over operations at the IHS clinic in Juneau, and then took over operations at Mt. Edgecumbe Hospital, formerly an IHS-run facility, in 1986.

“In Alaska we have the highest cost of health care in the nation,” Thomas said. “There’s vast wilderness surrounding each place. In order for me to get out of my community, I’d have to fly or take a ferry. This gets incredibly expensive.”
Many Alaskan villages have a community health clinic, but complicated procedures such as chemotherapy or serious surgeries, require patients to go to hospitals at regional hubs or to the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. The burden is on the tribal health consortium to pay the costs of a commercial jet, float plane, ferry, or boat.

If a medical evacuation helicopter is needed, it would cost SEARHC about $95,000 — a cost that could be absorbed by the Affordable Care Act.

“The issue is that IHS only provides about half the money for services,” Thomas said. “We rely on other revenues like grants and billing Medicare and Medicaid. If native people enroll, it puts more money back and we could offer more services or expanded services.”
Further, a member of a federally recognized tribe can get a lifetime exemption. Alaska Natives and American Indians are exempt from Affordable Care Act tax penalties because they receive care through the IHS. But through the new health care scheme, they are eligible for subsidies from private insurance. Thomas said that those who fall between 100 percent and 500 percent of the federal poverty level pay a monthly premium, but no deductibles or out-of-pocket expenses.

Yet, of more than 100,000 self-identified Alaskan Natives or American Indians, only 115 had signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act as of April.

“Not a lot of people realize what the Affordable Care Act does for Alaskan Native people,” Thomas said.

Coverage also extends to Native people who are not enrolled members of a federally recognized tribe and meet federal guidelines. Thomas said they can receive a lifetime hardship exemption, rather than a tribal exemption, and there may be some out-of-pocket expense.

Governor to seek $200M more for schools

By Jerry Cornfield, The Herald

OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee surprised lawmakers Tuesday with a call to give public schools $200 million in new funding, with a portion earmarked for the first cost-of-living increase for teachers in five years.

Inslee, who’s been saying he would seek a major investment in education, changed course after the state Supreme Court recently scolded lawmakers for moving too slowly to fully fund basic education as required by the state constitution.

“Promises don’t educate our children. Promises don’t build our economy and promises don’t satisfy our constitutional and moral obligations,” Inslee said in prepared remarks to a joint session of both chambers of the Legislature.

“We need to stop downplaying the significance of this court action. Education is the one paramount duty inscribed in our constitution,” Inslee said during his noontime State of the State Address.

Also Tuesday, Inslee pressed lawmakers to pass a transportation package and increase the state’s minimum wage by as much as $2.50 an hour. Today the minimum wage in Washington is $9.32 per hour.

Regarding education funding, the first-term Democratic governor will propose closing tax breaks to generate the revenue, a change he sought without much success last year. He didn’t spell out which tax breaks he will seek to close.

“You can expect that again I will bring forward tax exemptions that I think fall short when weighed against the needs of our schools,” according to the remarks provided in advance of his speech.

On transportation, Inslee urged lawmakers to find common ground in time to reach agreement before this year’s 60-day session ends in March. The House is controlled by Democrats and the Senate is controlled by Republicans.

“If education is the heart of our economy, then transportation is the backbone. That’s why we need a transportation investment package,” he said. “The goal cannot be for everyone to get everything they want. Instead, we must get agreement on what our state needs.”

And he said he wasn’t sure how much the minimum wage should climb but knows it needs to be higher than it is today.

“I don’t have the exact number today for what our minimum wage should be. It won’t be a number that remedies 50 years of income inequality,” he said. “But I believe that an increase in the range of $1.50 to $2.50 an hour is a step toward closing the widening economic gap.”

The governor also called for reform that would ensure businesses pay no business-and-occupation tax if they earn less than $50,000 in revenue in a year.

House Members Howling Over WH Plan to Cheat Tribes on Health Costs

By Rob Capriccioso, Indian Country Today Media Network

U.S. House members across the aisles are reacting harshly to a plan by the Obama administration to cut contract support cost (CSC) reimbursements to tribes in the federal budget’s continuing resolution currently being considered by Congress.

“If the administration has its way, tribes would lose their ability to obtain the legitimate contract support cost funds that Indian Health Service has failed to pay,” Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, told Indian Country Today Media Network in reaction to a White House budget proposal shared with some Congress members late this summer that would allow the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to limit how much each tribe would be paid for CSC.

RELATED: White House Trying to Cheat Tribes on Health Costs

Tribes would be left to pay for any CSC funding not appropriated by Congress. President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget request falls copy40 million short of what is required to honor all tribal contracts with the IHS, and copy2 million short of what is required to honor all BIA contracts, according to testimony provided to Congress in April.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the administration for even suggesting this,” Young said. “Fully funding contract support costs is the right thing to do. Providing healthcare services is a critical component of the federal government’s trust responsibility to tribes, and imposing a ‘hard cap’ that limits tribes’ compensation for healthcare services that they provided on behalf of the government would undermine our sacred trust obligation.”

Young promised “to fight to make sure the administration’s proposed continuing resolution language, which would harm healthcare delivery throughout Indian country, is not included in the House version.”

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a Chickasaw Nation citizen who sits on the House Appropriations and Budget Committees, told ICTMN that the administration’s plan is “outrageous.”

“The record from this administration on Indian affairs has been pretty good, but this as an area it has not been,” Cole said.

Cole added that as of early September 10 he had not seen the final text of the House’s continuing resolution bill, so he did not know if the Republican leadership had included the administration’s proposal.

“I hope and I expect – but I don’t want to tell you I got it for sure – that this is going to be fixed, that we will be offering a continuing resolution that does not cap these payments,” Cole said. “I know the Appropriations Committee has forwarded this matter to leadership. I’m assuming word got through to the guys who put together the final draft of the whole thing.”

Democratic tribal allies in the House also say they are concerned by the administration’s proposal, and they do not want to see the Republican House leadership include it in its continuing resolution.

“We have yet to see the text of the continuing resolution from the Republican leadership in the House, however, any proposal of this nature would be concerning, and the impact on tribal communities would need to be closely reviewed,” Rep. Ben Luján (D-N.M.) told ICTMN.

“The United States has a trust responsibility that must be upheld, and it is critical that tribal leaders and members of Congress work together to ensure we are meeting the funding needs of Indian country,” Luján said. “A key component is undoing the failed experiment of sequestration that I have opposed every step of the way, in part because of the negative effect it is having on Native American communities.”


Late September 10, the House-proposed continuing resolution was filed. It did not include any CSC caps, though it left funding at the 2013 sequestered level.

In the Senate, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has vowed to do whatever she can to quash consideration of the proposal, but Democrats control that chamber, so it remains to be seen if Democratic Senate leaders are willing to counter the Democratic administration’s plan. From the House, Young said he would “continue to work with the Alaska delegation to prevent the harmful language from being included on the Senate side.”

Lloyd Miller, an Indian affairs lawyer with Sonosky Chambers involved in several tribal contract support disputes with the federal government, suggested that tribal officials reach out to Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island), chairman of the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, who will have input on this funding proposal in the Senate.

“Sen. Reed will be very important as this plays out in short order,” Miller said, noting that he would like to see the senator to attend a meeting of the National Conference of the American Indians in Washington on September 11.

Congress is scheduled to be in session for only nine days in September. It must pass a continuing resolution by October 1 to avoid a partial government shutdown. If the administration’s language is included in the continuing resolution, tribes would likely lose out on millions of dollars.

The administration’s request comes after a June 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said the federal government must pay for the full CSC incurred by tribes while providing healthcare and other governmental services for their tribal citizens through Indian Self-Determination Act contract agreements. It was a rare tribal victory at the Supreme Court, which is one reason why the current White House position has alarmed tribal leaders.

Forty-five tribes and tribal organizations shared a letter with Reed and his subcommittee September 3, expressing their outrage at the administration’s proposal.

Cole predicted legal consequences if the administration’s plan were to pass Congress. “Do you really think this won’t be challenged in court?” he asked. “I suspect it will.”