Mr. DICKS. Madam Chair, I reserve a point of order.
The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman's point of order is reserved.
The gentleman from Arizona is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. GOSAR. Madam Chair, I rise in support of my amendment. As currently written, the Department of Interior appropriations bill states that education ``funds made available under this Act may not be used to establish a charter school at a Bureau-funded school.'' My amendment would allow money appropriated under this bill to be used for charter schools. Now, the bill grandfathers in charter schools funded prior to 1999, but bars no new charter schools. The committee report is silent on this.
As of the 2005 census, children made up 1.4 million of the total of American Indian and Alaskan Native populations. They, and their parents, deserve educational choices. Charter schools are semi-independent schools usually within a State's public education system that are designed and operated by educators, parents, community leaders, educational entrepreneurs, and others. As of 2006, a total of 40 States and the District of Columbia have passed charter school laws allowing this type of school
to be part of their system. I see no reason to deny this opportunity to American Indians.
I believe administrators of such schools may worry about administrative issues in terms of accounting for students who transfer between a charter school and a noncharter school and the moneys that are appropriated. This is sometimes referred to as the ``ownership'' of the student. But such administrative concerns should not be a basis to completely abandon this option. Competent administrators at the BIA, the tribes, and the State educational associations can work out the transitional issues.
Further, to the extent someone does not like charter schools, so be it. Don't send your child to one. But we in Congress should not be picking winners and losers. Charter schools should be an available choice to those tribes that want them. If a tribe chooses not to offer a charter school approach, that is its decision. But another tribe may do so on its own. There's no reason in this appropriation bill to foreclose this option. We should not impose our personal likes and dislikes on others.
It is my further belief that allowing the tribes the maximum ability to choose the best educational program is consistent with self-determination. Having the right to decide local school decisions is a part of self-determination, and I don't see why we in Congress should deny that right. A key part of self-determination is choosing the manner in which the tribes educate their children. As far back as 1970, President Nixon addressed this issue that was then emerging, and stated: ``It is long past
time that the Indian policies of the Federal Government begin to recognize and build upon the capacities and insights of the Indian people. Both as a matter of justice and as a matter enlightened social policy, we must begin to act on the basis of what the Indians themselves have long been telling us. The time has come to break decisively with the past and create the conditions for a new era in which the Indian future is determined by Indian acts and Indian decisions.''
Indeed, that is what Congress did when it passed the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. Allowing the tribes to choose a charter school option makes sense from a self-determination perspective.
Finally, according to the Center for Education Reform, there are over 5,000 charter schools nationwide. There are examples of charter schools with spectacular successes and results. I'm sure there are some charter schools that have failed in their mission. The point here, however, is about choice and allowing the tribes to decide what educational opportunities they want to create.
It is well-known that charter schools are schools of choice. Unlike traditional public schools, students may choose to attend charter schools, and if those students determine that the school is not serving their needs, they may choose to leave. It is true that many charter schools typically have longer schooldays, longer school years and higher academic and behavioral expectations for their students. For those [Page: H5570]
concerned about the current public educational
system, these trends should be encouraged, but let's allow the tribes to make that choice.
It is Congress' duty to describe and allow such choices as part of its oversight and application of our treaties with which American Indian tribal relations are governed. I ask for support of this amendment and support for Indian self-determination and school choice.
I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. SIMPSON. Madam Chair, we don't have any problem with this amendment. This is kind of new territory in our bill, but I appreciate the gentleman from Arizona's work on this and his interest in providing quality education for our Native American brothers and sisters all across this country. It's a deep concern that I share also, and I look forward to working with him to make sure that this does what is intended and that it provides what is necessary for our Indian population so that they have
the advantages that all of us have. I thank the gentleman for offering the amendment.
I yield back the balance of my time.
The Acting CHAIR. Does the gentleman from Washington wish to continue to reserve his point of order?
Mr. CLARKE of Michigan (during the reading). Mr. Chair, I ask that the reading be suspended.
The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Michigan?
There was no objection.
The Acting CHAIR. The gentleman from Michigan is recognized for 5 minutes.
(Mr. CLARKE of Michigan asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. DICKS. In your amendment, it says:
funds made available and all that follows through that period--but--and insert a charter school as that term is defined in section 1141 of the Education Amendments of 1978.
Would you tell us what that definition is, please.
Mr. GOSAR. We were looking that up, my colleague from Washington. We don't have that on the laptop at this point of inquiry.