Ex-President Obama’s abysmal education policies harmed the nation’s most vulnerable students. The Havasupai Tribe in Arizona filed a damning lawsuit against the government this month.
“The tribe, a dwindling nation of 730,”the New York Times, “claims the United States has reneged on its legal duty to educate their children by, among other things, allowing a janitor and a secretary to fill in for absent teachers, and by failing to provide special-education services and enough books for all students.”
American excellence is becoming a joke. Our revered status as number one has been in jeopardy for years. China, Russia, Western Europe, every country that can is scrambling to outstrip us. US students don’t benefit from the richness of their environment. Our global test scores are middling.
“It’s frankly a disgrace that these conditions exist in schools that are run by the federal government and have existed for many years,”Kathryn Eidmann, a lawyer at Public Counsel.
Tribal schools should be symbols of the power, wealth, and generosity of our country, not cesspools where students go to mark time. The schools are overseen by the Interior Department. In a detailed exit memo, the department secretary lamented the deplorable state of education in tribal communities. American Indian youth welfare was described as “perhaps the area that demands the most attention from the next administration and Congress.”
Havasupai Elementary School doesn’t teach its students any subjects other than reading and math, and it does a poor job even with those. There’s no instruction in history, politics, social studies, the arts. Textbooks are scarce and the library exists only in name. Sports and clubs are unheard of.
Teachers are so negligent that many rarely show up for work. Instead, students are taught by whatever warm body happens to be close, like the janitor or the office staff. The school often closes for weeks at a time.
to the Washington Post: “The school has no system for evaluating or serving children with disabilities, who comprise about half of the student body…school officials are so incapable of meeting the needs of students with special needs that they often require those children to be educated at home, attending school as little as three hours per week.”
The school does not accept input from the tribe. Parents have little say in their child’s education. The situation has become so dire that Havasupai Elementary is among the worst performing schools in the country. The students scored in the 1st percentile in reading- the absolute lowest score possible. Yet reading is one of the only two classes that school professes to teach.
Obama’s underlings were surprisingly candid about the government’s failure. “Indian education is an embarrassment to you and to us,” Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2013.
Obama’s supporters painted him as a champion of the oppressed yet his administration did very little to help them. If he didn’t do much for African-Americans, he did nothing at all for Natives.
President Trump is in the unenviable position of having to deal with the consequences of Obama’s mistakes. His administration will be the one to settle this lawsuit. The ire of the tribe will automatically transfer to him as their children continue to go to sub-standard schools.
“Federal law requires that the federal government provide Native children with educational opportunities that equal or exceed those for all other students in the United States,” the complaint, alleging violations of the Indian Education Act, the Rehabilitation Act and a host of other federal laws. “The U.S. government has dismally failed to fulfill these responsibilities.”
The school is nestled in a remote part of the grand canyon. Havasupai children grow up alienated from American culture and badly educated. The government made a deal with their people, and the tribe’s squalid condition shows how poorly that deal was kept.
“The United States government has confined us to this remote location. The United States government promised quality education to our people,” Don E. Watahomigie, chairman of the Havasupai tribal council, told reporters. “The United States government failed on this promise, and as a result our people suffer.”
The tribe lives in America. They’re our neighbors. They’re a part of us. It’s atrocious to deprive children of an education. Schools across the country suffer from mismanagement, but the problem is far more pronounced on reservation lands.
“Because the Havasupai school is so poor,” writes the post, “students are often ill-prepared to gain admission to or succeed in high school, and just an estimated 20 percent of Havasupai Elementary School students end up graduating from high school.”
Generations are being wasted. Men and women are being raised to follow and orders and forgo thinking for themselves. A high-school dropout who can barely read can’t start a revolution. He can’t challenge the government.
Education expands your mind.
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