AFN Educational Compacting Project

The Alaska Federation of Natives Education Compacting Project was initiated to outline a potential path that would lead to the negotiation and execution of a state-tribal compact in which Alaska Natives would administer a K-12 public school.

AFN was tasked with a scoping effort that would focus on the legal foundation that could ultimately lead to a state-tribal education compact of a public K-12 school or schools. As part of the project - and as necessary - AFN would:

  • Engage with Alaska Native leaders and subject matter experts on educational compacting
  • Provide informational materials and legal opinions
  • Participate in discussions with the State of Alaska and the various committees and staff of the Alaska State Legislature to respond to questions
  • Explore the federal government’s role in Alaska Native education and options to support the quality of Native education and state compacting efforts

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The Value of Indigenous Culture, Knowledge & Teaching

Achievement gaps in education outcomes for Alaska Native students have existed for many decades. Alaska Native teachers, Indigenous scholars and other academic researchers have long argued that the education of Alaska Native students requires systemic change that include schools that are Native controlled, Native administered and Native in approach and practice. While many Alaskan schools have incorporated specific recommendations to include Native language education and other aspects of Native culture as part of the curriculum, these efforts have been uneven and limited. Students have benefited, but far too many are still not receiving the kind of education and skills they need to prepare them for life. Significant disparities in attendance, academic scores, graduation, and dropout rates persist.

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Legal Foundation: Tribal Compacting in Education

From the onset of the project, AFN focused on broad objectives to advance the compacting option and improve education outcomes for Alaska Native children. These included the development of the legal foundation for state-tribal education compacts; consideration of what legal issues might need to be addressed   for implementation of compacting as a mechanism for interested Alaska tribes to operate K-12 schools; and examination of the role of the federal government in trust responsibilities related to the public education of Native children. AFN secured legal assistance from Paul Moorehead, a principal in Powers Pyles Sutter & Verville’s Indian Tribal Government Group and Richard (Rick) Agnew with VNF Solutions. Both attorneys and their firms are familiar with Alaska and its tribal governments and worked on a variety of matters for AFN over the years. Both are well versed in Indian law as well as the complicated business of educating and working with Congress and federal agencies to consider new ideas and opportunities to better existing federal policies and services in Indian country.

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The Future of Tribal Compacting

State-Tribal school compacts can transform education for Alaska Native children by creating unique, tailored agreements that can meet the specific education needs of a community or even a consortium of communities. A compact would allow for innovation and flexibility at a systemic level so that tribes and local communities can address educational needs for themselves and develop culturally driven curriculums and teaching methods that would create an environment where students would thrive academically, personally, and socially. It is clear that our schools need to implement pedagogies based on and provided through Alaska Native cultural perspectives and compacting may be the best mechanism to accomplish that transformation.

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