Count it!

Count it!
(MN File Photo) President Donald Trump has signed Senate Bill 943 into law, modernizing a 22-year-old counting baseline for JOM service eligible students.

Jason Salsman/Multimedia Producer

President Trump signs JOM Modernization Act into law

WASHINGTON — Indian education officials and Johnson O’ Malley Program advocates nation-wide are “counting” their blessings with the passage and signing of the JOM Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act.

The signing of SB 943 into law now establishes a modernized baseline count of JOM-eligible Native students.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Secretary of Education Greg Anderson said the former count has been in place, without an update, since 1995.

“It’s been 22 years since the last count and we’re working on a count of about 271,000 students,” Anderson said. “With that there has been no additional funding since that time. So we estimate at this time that we’re going have about 1.2 to 1.4 million students that are eligible for services.”

Since 1995, restrictions on the number of eligible students receiving funding have had a tremendous impact, with only about a third of the funding required for JOM services included in the U.S. FY 2018 budget.

“This is the first step, in allowing us to do the preliminary count and hopefully the funding will follow,” Anderson said.

The preliminary count report will be sent to the Secretary of the Interior no later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of the bill.

The SOI will then establish a 60-day comment period to gain feedback on the preliminary report.

No later than 120 days after concluding the consultation and comment period, the SOI shall then publish a final report on the initial determination of the number of eligible students served or potentially served.

No later than one year after the date of enactment, the SOI shall establish and commence a rulemaking process.

“We’re at least a year away from being able to look at the count, push for funding and really get to a point that we can maybe redesign the program where it serves our students in a better way,” Anderson said.

Anderson mentioned that while MCN has always been a supporter and leader amongst JOM efforts on a national scale, there has been a heightened sense of urgency related to modernizing the count.

“In the last two years I know that myself, our organization and Chief Floyd, has really turned up the volume as far as the efforts to get this bill passed,” he said. “We’ve put in a lot of effort in D.C. to push this through, getting people to listen, and finally getting Congress to act.”

Anderson also noted J.C. Watts and Watts Partners in Washington, along with Steve Pruitt, for their lobby efforts on behalf of JOM for MCN.

Currently, MCN serves 45 schools in its program with 17,373 students that represent 103 federally recognized tribes.

Of that number, 7,386 are Muscogee (Creek) tribal citizens. Current per student funding sits at $60 per student.

“We’re one of the larger JOM programs in the United States, that’s why we’ve been a driving force,” Anderson said. “It’s very important to us, it’s important to our schools, but more so to the students we serve.”

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  • Aaron Griffith
    February 8, 2019, 9:07 pm

    Even with this bill being signed into law, thousands of eligible public school students who are members of federally recognized tribes that attend charter schools in Oklahoma will not be counted because most Charter schools do not participate in JOM or Title VI.

    It is estimated from the most recent demographic data available regarding charter schools, that just the virtual charters alone may have a large enough eligible unserved student population to potentially be one of the largest JOM/Title VI programs in the state.

    It really is a shame that these charter students aren’t bring served and all these federal resources meant to assist them in their public education are being left on the table.

    It is such a disservice to them.