Legislators question funding for Daposka Ahnkodapi fourth grade teacher

At least for now, the Osage Nation Immersion School remains on track to add another grade during the 2020-2021 school year.

On Sept. 30, the Tzi-Zho Session’s final day, the Appropriations Committee narrowly rejected a budget amendment that would have cut $13,000 from Daposka Ahnkondapi’s budget as part of an effort to offset a budget shortfall.

Those funds were earmarked for the first two months’ salary of an as yet unnamed fourth grade teacher for the 2020-2021 school year.

“This will not inhibit the school from doing what’s laid out in program report,” Congresswoman Maria Whitehorn said.

“All that it does is take out $13,000 from an unfilled position that will not be filled until August and September 2020. We all know sitting here at this table that it is key to what some of the issues are here in this budgetary session and having revenue to cover all the needs of our people.”

With the committee deadlocked 3-3, the amendment failed. Along with Whitehorn, Congresswoman Shannon Edwards and Congressman Eli Potts voted in support of the amendment.

Legislators RJ Walker, Scott BigHorse and Paula Stabler voted against the proposed cut.

Previous announcements have called for the school to add a grade each year, but until recently, did not incorporate standardized testing or other academic benchmarks to document the students’ progress, thus prompting additional hesitation.

School leadership announced in early September that the school has started incorporating progress reports, report cards and standardized testing, prompting concerns from at least one member of Congress about the potential reduction in funds.  

“If we cut this money out of here, there are children who’ll need help to pass this third grade reading test,” Congressman Bighorse said. “If we get in there and cut their funding, they won’t be able to complete that part of the education process.”