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Representative Dusty Johnson’s tribal school bill passes the House

(KEVN)
Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 7:42 PM CDT
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Washington, D.C. - Legislation sponsored by South Dakota’s U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson will divert millions back to tribal students' education. The bill passed the U.S. House unanimously. The Tribal School Federal Insurance Parity Act (H.R. 895) makes tribal grant schools eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefit (FEHB) program. Johnson, along with President of the Oglala Lakota Nation Education Coalition Cecelia Fire Thunder, testified in favor of the bill when it was in committee.

“For ten years, leaders have tried to fix this mistake, and I’m glad we got it done today. I’m grateful for the input tribal members gave me along the way,” said Johnson. “The Tribal School Federal Insurance Parity Act directs critical dollars back to the students. My bill creates much-needed parity among tribal schools, and I’m looking forward to seeing it pass the Senate.”

“This simple and clean legislative fix would directly benefit our tribal grant schools by allowing them to access lower cost health insurance options, resulting in significant overall savings. Not only would this fix benefits for more than 500 employees working at tribal grant schools on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, it would also free up millions of dollars to be used to better the education for thousands of tribal students at these schools. Tribal grant schools should not be treated differently than other tribal schools and I’m glad the House has acted. I urge the House and Senate to work together to get this bill across the finish line,” said Cecelia Fire Thunder, President, Oglala Lakota Nation Education Consortium.

This legislation would amend Section 409 of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act to clarify that tribal grant schools are eligible to participate in the FEHB program and the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program.

The Tribal School Federal Insurance Parity Act is intended to help improve the recruitment and retention of professional educators in tribal and rural communities and would allow tribal schools to spend less on health care and more on their students. Tribal grant schools would still be required to pay the government’s contribution toward the insurance premiums and the employees would be responsible for the remaining balance. This bill will not cost the taxpayer additional dollars.

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