Native Village
Youth and Education news
January 2010 Volume 2

Native American School Not Receiving Funds
Phyllis Fletcher, KUOW News.
Condensed by Native Village

Washington: In Seattle, Native American students graduate at a 44% rate compared to 63% for all students.

And, while the school district gets federal money to educate its Native students, the only Seattle high school for Native American education --  Indian Heritage Middle College High School -- isn't getting any of it.

"Indian Heritage High School does not receive those types of monies that I'm aware of," said Indian Heritage principal, Dr. John German.

Founded in the 1970s, Indian Heritage is only a shadow of it once was. Now Native Americans parents and alumni are asking Seattle Public Schools [SPS] to do more for the school and it's students:

Comment: "This school was supposed to be designed to teach our Native kids about their history. From my understanding, it's being phased out of this school."

Comment: "When I was in high school, things were a lot different at Indian Heritage. We had a awesome basketball team. We had athletes. We were recognized."

Comment" "What Indian education monies does the Seattle Public Schools receive and how is it spent on our Native students?"

German says his school is funded like other Seattle schools -- it's based on how many students go there. Currently, Indian Heritage has about 60 students, and 15 are Native American. The school has money for only three teachers and security staff.

Indian Heritage is an open campus. Teachers deny they have an attendance problem, but former student Myleaka Webster says her classmates barely showed up.

"There'd probably be maybe 20-30 kids there before lunch," she said.  "People there would come in late. They were never on time. And then after lunch there'd be like 15."

Myleaka said kids used to stay in the park after lunch and sometimes drink or do drugs. She says Native American students like her need extra help to "stay away from drugs and alcohol and stuff. And having the guidance to come to school and to do their work. I mean, everybody could use extra support. It's good for everybody, but Native Americans needed it bad."

Webster thought she'd get that support at Indian Heritage. And sometimes, she did. She got to study tribes in class and get help after school in cultural programs. But even though Myleaka stayed out of trouble with teachers, she was failing during her freshman year. She managed to pull her grades back up, but left Indian Heritage after her junior year.

 "I took a test for the school I'm going to now. I am way below average. I also wanna know when are you guys gonna boost up the education? When is it gonna be high school level?"
German says Indian Heritage is part of a group of high school re-entry programs in Seattle Public Schools. Because of that, students who choose Indian Heritage may have issues that most students don't. They may need more than four years to graduate, or have trouble with grades or standardized tests.

German defends the curriculum and his staff and tells stories of students who do well.  "Two of our students last year, one young lady won the school board scholarship, which was a couple thousand dollars or so, and another one won a scholarship to North Seattle Community College. So, are they not successful?"

However, Indian Heritage parents and alumni believe more students would be successful if the school had more money. Every school district is entitled to federal money to educate Native Americans. SPS got about $230,000 this year based on a head count of 1,100 Native students (although the Seattle Schools' website claims around 850 Native

Parents and alumni want to know where that money is going.  SPS said the monies were directed to K-8 tutoring, youth leadership and for staff development. However, an SPS auditor said that last year the district didn't even spend all the money, and what it spent lacked proper oversight.

The district auditor said this finding verifies the complaints about funding use. The school board president says the lack of student success shows the way funding is spent isn't working.

The schools wants to form a parent committee that offers input as to where funding should go. In fact, such a committee is required to receive the federal school dollars. SPS has neglected that requirement.  Now they're having trouble getting parents on board.

The school board finance committee is investigating.

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