Red Wing School District must do better on behalf of Native American students. That’s according to the Red Wing American Indian Parent Advisory Committee.

The AIPAC presented its findings to the School Board on March 8. During the meeting, Superintendent Karsten Anderson acknowledged misuse of funds specified for American Indian students.

A resolution of non-concurrence means that committee members have determined that the district has not been American Indian students’ needs as required under state law.

Tina Jefferson, Prairie Island Indian Community tribal member and foster parent to her grandchildren, said, “We can no longer stand back and watch our children be left behind. We ask that you work with us to create a better system to educate our children.”

Margo Bellanger, co-chair of the AIPAC, presented recommendations to the School Board in compliance with the Minnesota Department of Education, Office of American Indian Education and Minnesota Statute 124D.78.

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Five recommendations

The AIPAC recommendations for 2021-2022 are:

1. Provide a written account of all funds available to the Red Wing Public Schools either for or as a result of American Indian children being enrolled in local schools.

“We want to see where the money has gone in the past, so we have an idea as to what the money is being spent on,” Bellanger said.

Anderson acknowledged that funds specifically for American Indian students under the U.S. Education Title VII -- Indian, Native Hawaiian and Alaska Native Education -- have not gone where they should.

“A lot of that money was actually being meshed with our Title I funding that serves all kids,” Anderson said.

Title I is a federal aid program designed to ensure a high-quality education for every child by providing extra help to those who need it most.

Holly Tauer, the new treasurer of the Red Wing School Board and member of a sub-committee formed in response to the non-concurrence resolution, said, “My heart hurts and it shouldn’t have taken so long . . . this isn’t an oops, it is disgusting.”

2. Diversity/anti-bias training will be provided for all teachers and staff.

3. In pursuant of the Minnesota Statute 124D.77, RWPS shall establish a plan to have American Indian teachers in the district by the 2021-2022 school year.

The statute states that districts with at least 10 American Indian children enrolled “must actively recruit teacher applicants who are American Indian from the time it is reasonably expected that a position will become available until the position is filled or September 1, whichever is earlier.”

At the very least, AIPAC recommends that the RWPS establish working relationships with input from American Indian community members in all academic areas.

4. RWPS shall create for-credit classes at the high school which include native culture, history and language.

5. RWPS shall with the AIPAC in the writing and management of grants available to

American Indian students within RWPS.

“In general I think we can and should comply” with all the recommendations, Anderson said.

Tauer added, “Things need to change and it won’t be comfortable, but that is when you know that things weren’t right in the first place.”

The board has until April 18 to issue a formal response and action plan.

A matter of state law

The Minnesota Statutes 124D71-85 cover American Indian Education.

The laws state, in part, that a school board must ensure that programs are planned, operated, and evaluated with the involvement of and in consultation with parents of students served by the programs.

If the committee does not concur with the educational programs, the reasons for nonconcurrence and recommendations shall be submitted directly to the school board with the resolution. By resolution, the board must respond in writing within 60 days to each recommendation.