Spring Break for Congress? Not at all. On Wednesday, March 19, U.S. Representative Todd Rokita (Republican, Fourth District of Indiana) visited with Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community representatives to discuss the pros and cons of the SRPMIC school system, all while forming what he hoped will grow to be a lasting friendship with the Community.
The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate were on a two-week break at the time, known specifically as a “work period,” during which elected officials spend time with citizens across the nation learning more about the issues of importance to them. Rokita is a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee and serves as chairman of the subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education.
The day before his visit to Salt River, Rokita visited with the Gila River Indian Community Education Division. His visit to both communities was designed to gain a better understanding of some of the major issues related to Indian education.
Rokita met with SRPMIC President Diane Enos and Superintendent and Education Director Dr. Dale Frederick for a brief overview of the Community’s school system. They provided him with a wealth of information on the school system; school funding, statistics, state testing feedback, mobility rates, state standards, Pell Grant assistance and wellness were among the major topics discussed.
When Rokita asked how education on Indian communities is different from general public education in the United States, Enos responded, “I don’t think we’re any different from anyone out there. I think the only difference with us is that we really want to start looking at [learning disabilities in early childhood] so we can target and address [those] early on. I think we need to look for the weaknesses and challenges in children, and I think that’s money well spent.”
Enos showed her concern for Indian education and also elaborated on poverty and how the tribe provides means for its Community members to provide for themselves.
“[Students] need to meet the criteria of the state [they’re in] so that they don’t come out behind, [despite] wherever [they are] going to school. If [they fall behind], then what we’re doing is we’re making sure that the kids come out on different levels and it’s critical that we don’t do that,” said Frederick.
For more information on Rep. Rokita, visit http://rokita.house.gov. More information about the Salt River Schools is available at www.srpmic-ed.org.