WASHINGTON (AP) -- The national education bill passed by the U.S. Senate Tuesday greatly expands programs designed to help Alaska Natives do better in school.
The bill also includes, for the first time, authority for federal money to be spent on construction of vocational schools in rural Alaska.
The Senate approved the plan on an 87-10 vote, giving President Bush a decisive victory on his top domestic priority. The House approved the measure last week, 381-41. Bush is expected to sign the bill into law within days.
Sen. Ted Stevens' additions to the bill include programs to educate Native students who want to become teachers; programs to improve Native performance on standardized tests and the authorization of federal funds to develop regional vocational schools in rural Alaska, including boarding schools for secondary and post-secondary students.
The bill also includes programs to teach parenting skills; continue an urban-rural exchange program for high school students and a program to reduce the drop-out rate among Alaska Natives.
Stevens and other members of the Senate Appropriations Committee provided their justification for the programs in an Oct. 11 report.
''It has been brought to the committee's attention that in urban areas, 60 percent of Alaska Natives entering high school do not graduate, and that Alaska Natives' test scores are on average 40 percent lower than those of other students,'' the committee report said. ''In some districts, none of the Alaska Native elementary students and 40 percent of Native high school students are performing at their grade level.''
Under the bill passed Tuesday, the programs will be authorized in law for the next seven years. Only a line in an appropriation bill will be necessary to maintain them.
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