May 11, 2016

Senate Hears from Wyoming Witness on Indian Education Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA), welcomed Wyoming’s own Carla Mann to the committee. Ms. Mann is the president of the National Johnson-O’Malley Association. She is from Fort Washakie, Wyo. 
A long-time advocate for Indian children and the Johnson-O’Malley program, Ms. Mann testified on S. 2842. This bill would amend and reform the Johnson-O’Malley Act to award contracts to certain tribal organizations, Indian corporations, school districts, states, and consortia of tribal organizations, and for other purposes.
In his opening statement, Senator Barrasso welcomed Ms. Mann to the committee and thanked her for her service to Indian Country.
“Today, we have Ms. Carla Mann from my home state of Wyoming to give testimony on S. 2842,” said Chairman Barrasso. “She is from Fort Washakie, Wyoming, located on the Wind River Reservation, and has testified before this committee on similar issues in the past. Welcome back. I want to thank you, Ms. Mann, for your tireless work on these issues and for representing Wyoming proudly.”
In her written testimony, Ms. Mann pointed to the long inaction from Washington concerning Johnson-O’Malley Supplemental Indian Education program (JOM) operated by the Department of Interior, Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). “Mr. Chairman, for nearly 25 years and through several administrations, the Department of Interior and BIE have exhibited a ‘determined unwillingness’ to complete the necessary work to be able to finalize a count of the numbers of Indian student eligible for JOM services,” said Ms. Mann.
“In 2012, 2014, and again in 2016, members of Congress approved language in the Interior appropriations bills directing the department and BIE to update and report to the Congress a count of the eligible Indian students for the JOM program. Given this unacceptable situation, I come here today on behalf of the over 1 million Indian children asking this committee and the Congress to quickly approve S. 2842 so that these children can rightfully obtain the kinds of supplemental educational services and assistance they need to become productive American citizens,” said Ms. Mann.
Ms. Mann further testified on the importance of census data collection regarding JOM-eligible students. “Because of bureaucratic fumbling and administration neglect, JOM’s student count has been frozen at 278,000 students since 1994. The SCIA stated in its 2012 Report accompanying S. 1262, ‘[that] currently, 620,000 or 93% of Native students attend public schools and approximately 45,000, or 7%, attend BIE schools.’  It is clear that there is a large number of JOM-eligible students being denied or deprived of services that they are legally entitled to, amounting to a failure of the federal government to meet its trust responsibility,” said Ms. Mann.
She closed her testimony by expressing the need to pass S. 2842 for the students of Indian Country. “On behalf of the over 1 million Indian children eligible for JOM, I would like to thank you again for consideration of S. 2842 so quickly after its introduction. After 25 years of waiting for any action by Congress or the administration to rectify this shameful situation, I am encouraged that we have finally gotten your attention to this very real problem situation.”
You can watch Ms. Mann’s entire committee statement here.