North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed the State Advisory Council on Indian Education Bill (S.B. 97) into law Thursday during a ceremony in Old Main on the campus of The University of North Carolina Pembroke.
The governor was warmly welcomed by UNCP’s Chancellor Robin Cummings, who, just a few months ago, worked for the governor in the state Department of Health and Human Services.
The bill, which was written and sponsored in the House by Rep. Charles Graham, modifies the membership of the State Advisory Council on Indian Education.
In a roomful of local officials, Gov. McCrory also took the opportunity to promote the $2 billion bond referendum that would provide $23 million to UNCP for a new School of Business building. First, he signed the bill that he said “builds on our commitment to improving the overall education for all North Carolinians.
“I am proud to sign this bill that makes important changes to the advisory council which has been a steadfast champion for American Indian students in our state,” Gov. McCrory said. “We are proud of our American Indian citizens of North Carolina, and we respect their heritage. Next week, I will proclaim Native American Heritage Month in North Carolina.”
The signing ceremony underscored the governor’s support of the Advisory Council on Indian Education, whose mission is to improve educational opportunities for American Indian school children.
Senate Bill 97 requires that the UNC Board of Governors and the State Board of Community Colleges appoint an American Indian member from higher education. It reduces the number of American Indian parents from eight to five, and clarifies that appointed parents must be of students enrolled in the K-12 public schools, including charter schools.
In an interview before the bill signing ceremony, Rep. Graham said the bill encourages parental support and participation in the education of their children. He said the bill passed without opposition in both chambers of the General Assembly.
S.B. 97 increases the number of American Indian public school educators from two to five, and requires one member to be Indian Education program employee. The new format allows additional feedback from parents while also hearing more from teachers who are in schools and in the classroom, Gov. McCrory said.
Appearing very much at home in Pembroke, the governor welcomed Ruth Revels, chair of the state Commission of Indian Affairs and his former high school teacher. Revels is a Pembroke native and longtime advocate for American Indians in North Carolina.
The March 15 bond referendum provides funding for new construction at North Carolina’s public universities and community colleges in areas that support education in business, math, science and engineering, the governor said.
“In five years we will have less debt than we have today,” Gov. McCrory said. “We won’t need a tax increase. The bond referendum has bi-partisan support, and I encourage you all to vote for it.”
Chancellor Cummings and his wife, Rebecca, welcomed McCrory saying: “It’s appropriate that the governor is here at UNCP to sign a bill relating to American Indian children.
“Gov. MCcrory has proven his commitment to UNCP when he signed the bond referendum bill that makes a strategic long-term investment of $23 million in our School of Business,” Chancellor Cummings said.
“Thank you for your support of UNCP and its mission to change lives through education,” he said.
The State Advisory Council is charged with the following duties: to advise the State Board of Education on effective educational practices for American Indian students; to explore programs that raise academic achievement and reduces the dropout rate among American Indian students; to advise the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction on ways to improve coordination and communication for the benefit of American Indian students affected by state and federal programs administered at the state level; to prepare and present an annual report to the State Board of Education, tribal organizations, and the annual North Carolina Indian Unity Conference; and to advise the State Board of Education on any other aspect of American Indian education when requested.