Legislation to allow federal insurance access for teachers and staff at tribal grant schools has been put forth by the trio of South Dakota delegates to Washington D.C.

Last week, U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., introduced companion bills in the Senate and House allowing employees of schools funded through the Tribally Controlled Schools Act grants to participate in Federal Employee Health Benefits and Federal Employees Group Life Insurance programs. 

Of the 129 tribal grant schools nationwide, 19 are in South Dakota. Other tribal schools are either operated directly by the Bureau of Indian Education or through the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.

"Under this bill, the schools would be required to pay the government's contribution toward insurance premiums, and the employee would pay the remaining balance," said Rounds.

Noem suggested opening up insurance markets will address the challenge tribal communities have of retaining good teachers.

"By easing the financial burdens on schools, I'm hopeful we can help them retain teachers with enhanced employee benefits while also preserving more resources for the classroom," she said.

Tribal grant schools would pick up the tab for the government's contribution, and employees would be responsible for the remaining balance.  

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