House passes JOM Modernization Act

House passes JOM Modernization Act
(MN File Photo) The U.S. House of Representatives passed House Bill S.943 on Dec. 11.

Liz Gray/Reporter

Bill one step closer to law

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives passed House Bill S.943 on Dec. 11.

The Johnson O’Malley Supplemental Indian Education Program Modernization Act was introduced in order to update the student count for the program.

‘Passage of this legislation moves us one step closer to finally addressing the numerous concerns about the persistent inaccuracy of the eligible student counts for the Johnson-O’Malley (JOM) program,’ National JOM Association Board President Carla Mann stated in a press release.

The bill passed through the Senate March 24, with the House passage it will be forwarded to the President for approval.

Mann noted there would be no formal changes to the rules and regulations governing the program’s operation, nor would there be any substantive change to the ancestral or tribal membership criterion to determine student eligibility that has been used since 1986.

According to Mann, the Modernization Act will enable NJOMA and other JOM stakeholders to work with the Bureau of Indian Education in modernizing the program’s existing rules and regulations to provide improved guidance to JOM contractors and educational experience for students involved in the program.

She stated it would also end the denial of JOM services to schools that have been unable to join since 1996.

It has been roughly 23 years since the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs conducted the last official JOM student count. A count was attempted in 2014 but was considered incomplete and unofficial.

Mann stated the bill would also allow for an in-depth study and assessment of the true costs and economics of providing modernized quality services and academic activities for Indian and Alaskan Native children that will prepare JOM students for participation in the global economy.

Muscogee (Creek) Nation Secretary of Education and Training Greg Anderson said the department is excited for the passage.

“We are prepared to begin the process of updating the count of our eligible Indian students and consulting with the Department of Interior to determine other eligible programs,” he said. “It is our goal to address the inaccuracy of past counts and work with the Bureau of Indian Education to provide eligible enrollment data that supports additional funding for programs to support the cultural and academic needs of Indian students.”

“We thank Congress for their effort and determination to advance 943 to law.”

MCN JOM program covers 45 schools districts with a 2017 student count of all tribes totaling 17,844.

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