Governor Signs Bipartisan Bill to Allow Native American Children to Learn in Their Native Language Today
Senator Williams watches as Governor Hickenlooper signs Senate Bill 57 into law today
DENVER─ Today, Governor John Hickenlooper signed Senate Bill 57 sponsored by Senator Suzanne Williams (D-Aurora) into law. Senate Bill 57 allows Native American language and culture courses to be taught in public schools. This legislation will allow tribal elders, and others with expertise in Native American studies to instruct students and share their knowledge with Native American children in the classroom.
Senator Williams offered the following comment on Senate Bill 57 today:
“In the past children have been discouraged from speaking their native tongue in classrooms, and now we know that we should be allowing children to embrace their heritage. Allowing tribal elders to share their immense knowledge and experiences with children will enrich their educational experience and encourage them to connect with their roots.”
Federal law requires that every classroom has a certified teacher. Under Senate Bill 57 indigenous language instructors must be adjunct professors in a particular Native American language and can only teach in their area of expertise. If a professor can’t be found, the Colorado Department of Education is now authorized to certify someone as an expert in a certain area of Native American studies. The individual will then be allowed to teach in conjunction with a licensed language teacher. This change creates a new process for tribal elders and other Native American leaders to become eligible to instruct school children. Furthermore, Senate Bill 57 requires the State Board of Education to adopt additional criteria for authorizing individuals qualified to teach indigenous languages.
This bill was sponsored in the House by Representative J. Paul Brown (R-Ignacio).