Two Kansas delegates to last week's White House Conference on Indian Education say they're pleased not only with some education reforms that were proposed, but with Kansas' strong presence at the event.
Marilyn Bread, education development specialist at Haskell Indian Junior College and a conference delegate, said a Kansas plan for Native American education received a lot of attention.
"I heard from educators and students who were very impressed with the state plan," Bread said. "The Kansas state plan was very comprehensive in addressing the latest issues in education from early childhood to adult. It's beautiful that Kansas is on top of this."
It was in September that the Kansas Association for Native American Education developed 15 resolutions pertaining to Native American education. Bread, president of the group, said conference participants not only used language from the Kansas plan, but adopted the same method the Kansas association used to arrive at resolutions.
JULIE Clouse, Kansas liaison to the conference, said she was impressed that Kansas had five voting delegates at the conference. In addition to Clouse and Bread, Kansas was represented by: Haskell President Bob Martin, a member of the conference's National Advisory Committee; Sharon McClane, education administrator for the Prairie Band Pottawatomie Tribe; and Verna Finch, vice chairman of the Kickapoo Nation.
Although Clouse was "disappointed" that President Bush did not make an appearance at the conference, she said she was impressed that three members of Kansas' congressional delegation Sen. Bob Dole, Sen. Nancy Kassebaum and Rep. Jim Slattery sent representatives to a conference banquet. She said many states were lucky to have one lawmaker represented at the banquet.
BREAD lauded the conference itself, saying, "I felt it was historical that for the first time, we could see educators and tribal leaders come together on a national basis."
Bread said she was pleased with one resolution calling for schools to show greater recognition of Native Americans' religious freedoms. For example, she said, if a Native American student needs to miss school to participate in a religious or cultural event, school officials should have a thorough understanding of why the student is absent, Bread said.
Clouse said she was pleased with a resolution calling for the teaching of Native American culture and perhaps even local tribal languages in public schools.
"It's something I would really like to see happen," said Clouse, who is affiliated with the Cherokee Tribe in Oklahoma and is the mother of five.
Said Martin, "We hope that with the emphasis on multicultural education, we also have that Native American component reflected."
Noting that 90 percent of Native American students nationwide attend public schools, Martin said he supports one resolution requiring teacher candidates to take six hours of "culturally relevant" courses prior to being certified.
"It would improve the performance of students in the classroom if teachers were sensitive to their culture," Martin said.
CLOUSE, who works out of Horton as director of the National Indian Elders Program, said, "We're not going to stop with the White House Conference. That's what's so important. I see the Kansas Association for Native American Education carrying on where the White House Conference left off."