Alaska embarks on turning over public schools to tribes

Sunday, 12 November 2017, 08:13:17 AM. State officials hope to negotiate with tribes to take over operation of rural schools through government-to-government compacts.
State education officials plan to enter into negotiations for compacts with Alaska tribes to take over rural schools. The idea grew out of the Alaska's Education Challenge reform initiative that brought together 100 education stakeholders to work over the last year. A committee on Community and Tribal Ownership advanced the recommendation for compacts. Native leaders spoke up for the idea, pointing to successful tribal control of Native health programs. Last month, Gov. Bill Walker signed a compact to allow tribal control of child protection services, although the document lacked details saying what the change would mean practically. [Alaska tribes and state sign historic document on tribal child welfare] Commissioner of Education Michael Johnson said he is excited about working on education compacts with interested tribes. Key legislators who were involved with the committees also support the work, which would require changes to state law. But some rural educators are cautious or concerned. At the Alaska Association of School Boards meeting in Anchorage on Thursday, I touched base with some of them. Some Native and non-Native school leaders said many tribes are not ready to run schools, lacking the capacity or professionalism. Others wondered how the idea would work in communities where a school serves more than one tribe. Many rural districts and villages already have all-Native school boards, some with members who have served for decades. If a compact means a tribal...Read more
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