New handbook makes the case for opening more charter schools to help Native American students

Buddy Moorehouse
Aug 9, 2018 1:15:00 PM

LANSING, Michigan (August 2, 2018) – A new handbook from the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) makes the case that charter schools can greatly help Native American tribal communities improve student achievement and strengthen their cultural heritage.

The release of the handbook is especially timely in Michigan, coming on the heels of a Michigan Civil Rights Commission hearing last week in Traverse City that specifically dealt with the challenges facing Native Americans and K-12 education.

“This handbook includes a report that outlines very specifically how charter schools are a lifeline to Native American tribal communities,” said Dan Quisenberry, President of the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA), the state charter school association. “That’s something we’ve seen both nationally and in Michigan. Charter schools are giving Native American students hope for a brighter future that wouldn’t exist otherwise.

“This couldn’t come at a more opportune time here in Michigan, given the conversation we just witnessed with the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. They’re looking at ways in which we can improve K-12 education in the Native American tribal communities. This handbook provides a strong option. We’re going to make sure that every member of the Civil Rights Commission has the opportunity to review this, and we’re also going to get this into the hands of policy makers in Lansing and throughout the state. This handbook provides a road map to success for these students and their communities.”

The handbook is entitled “Sovereignty in Education: Creating Culturally-Based Charter Schools in Native Communities.” It outlines the ways in which charter schools have helped Native communities across the country and offers guidelines for opening more of them.

The summary of the handbook states, “NIEA supports Native charter schools as they seek to integrate Native knowledge, culture, language, and other aspects of identity into the classroom … Native charter education is a strong pathway to improving the well-being of Native communities.”

Michigan is home to three Native American-focused charter schools, all of which are in the Upper Peninsula:

  • Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnabe Academy in Sault Ste. Marie, which is affiliated with the Sault Ste. Marie band of Chippewa Indians.
  • Nah Tah Wahsh Public School Academy in Wilson (near Escanaba), which is affiliated with the Potawatomi Indian tribe.
  • Ojibwe Charter School in Brimley, just west of Sault Ste. Marie, which is affiliated with the Bay Mills Chippewa Indian tribe.

Michigan also has a tribally-based charter school authorizer, Bay Mills Community College in Brimley.

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