©2017 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

This article focuses on House Bill 375, sponsored and introduced by representative Greg Hertz (R), Polson, on 02/02/2017, and is titled:

“AN ACT PROVIDING FUNDING FOR ACCREDITED TRIBALLY CONTROLLED SCHOOLS; REVISING THE QUALITY EDUCATOR PAYMENT, THE INDIAN EDUCATION FOR ALL PAYMENT, AND THE AMERICAN INDIAN ACHIEVEMENT GAP PAYMENT; PROVIDING DEFINITIONS; AMENDING SECTIONS 20-1-101, 20-9-327, 20-9-329, AND 20-9-330, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN IMMEDIATE EFFECTIVE DATE AND AN APPLICABILITY DATE.”

While Lake County struggles to stay financially afloat, and the state of Montana is in the midst of a budget crisis, Representative Hertz has proposed to increase state funding to TRIBALLY CONTROLLED SCHOOLS.  His bill defines TRIBALLY CONTROLLED SCHOOLS as “an elementary or secondary school ESTABLISHED AND CONTROLLED BY AN INDIAN TRIBE PURSUANT TO THE LAWS OF AN INDIAN TRIBE or federal law.

Contrast the term “Tribally Controlled School” with Article V Section 11 (5) of the Montana Constitution, which declares that: 

No appropriation shall be made for religious, charitable, industrial, educational, or benevolent purposes to any private individual, private association, or private corporation not under the control of the state.

Also contrast it against Article II Section 6 of the Montana Constitution:

AID PROHIBITED TO SECTARIAN SCHOOLS (1) The legislature, counties, cities, towns, school districts, and public corporations shall not make any direct or indirect appropriation or payment from any public fund or monies, or any grant of lands or other property for any sectarian purpose or to aid any church, school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.”

It appears Hertz’s bill calling to fund TRIBALLY CONTROLLED entities and programs contradicts what plainly was intended in the constitution.  The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are a private “federal” corporation created under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.  A copy of their corporate charter can be found at this link.  It is also a “politically” created group or sect.

Plain and simple, Hertz’s bill violates the Montana Constitution.

WHY IS MONTANA FUNDING TRIBAL EDUCATION OR ANY OTHER “INDIAN SPECIFIC” PROGRAM?

This is one of many such bills that have passed in the legislature over the years.   To the best of our knowledge, there is no easy way to accurately determine how much money Montana disperses to the seven Indian Tribes residing within the state, however we do know that as citizens of the state of Montana, all tribal members have the right to participate in the same programs as any other Montanan.

So why the additional need for “tribe specific” funding?  Why are we seeing a trend of state funding for such things as tribal languages, cultural programs, tribal history, education and other social programs, when these are clearly FEDERAL responsibilities?  What is the point of all of this “separate funding”, and is it possible that there is double dipping with both federal and state funds?

When the state spends funds for its many various social programs, including education, it is for the benefit for EVERY CITIZEN, including the 40,000 or so Indians living in Montana. When Montana spends funds on private corporations, in this case tribal corporations, can anyone honestly say that non-tribal members or Montana taxpayers benefit in any significant way?

Over the past nine years, the seven tribes in the state of Montana combined have received an average of nearly $500,000,000 per year from the Federal Government, flowing through a myriad of different tribal corporations.  One half of that amount, or an average of $235,000,000 per year is disbursed to the CSKT through 14 different corporations.  Federal funds disbursed to the CSKT in 2016  included at least $22 million of taxpayer funds designated for a significant number of EDUCATION K-12 and Tribal College programs.

While the numbers are stunning, these figures are far from being “all inclusive”. For example they do not include other sources of revenue to the tribes including any state of Montana expenditures (that are likely significant), private or corporate donations, state partnerships with the tribes on infrastructure and other projects, state revenue sharing contracts with tribes, receipts from Kerr Dam, or Bonneville land purchases for the tribe under the auspices of “habitat restoration and  mitigation”.

Contrast these CSKT figures with the Lake County annual expenditures of $25 million, which is 1/10th of that amount, yet the county serves approximately 28,000 Montanans which includes the 4,000 tribal members residing in the county.

Is it any wonder that Lake County is struggling under the weight of an over bloated tribal government, which includes a cadre of attorneys, grant writers and lobbyists that seemingly work to achieve the sole purpose of eroding local and state governance throughout western Montana?

BACK TO HB375

So with this all said and done, what in the world is Representative Hertz thinking?  As sponsor of this bill, here are a few questions that he should be able to answer:

  • Can Hertz provide a chart showing how much state money was paid to each tribe and the purpose of each category of funding, for each of the last 10 years?
  • Specifically how do state expenditures to tribal corporations benefit the citizens and taxpayers of Montana?
  • Who is accountable to ensure that funds given directly to tribal corporations are in fact spent on the programs they were intended for? Is this information freely available to the public?
  • Has Hertz, or will Hertz be proposing any programs such as Homesteader Education for All, Montana’s Unbiased History, or Property Rights Education for All?
  • Did legislative services flag HB375 as having legal or constitutional issues? If not, why not?
  • Has Hertz read the Montana Constitution and how does he personally reconcile his bill with Article V Section 11 (5) or Article II Section 6?

Contact Hertz through this legislative link and  let him know what you think about his bill.

Let the “rationalizations” begin.

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