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The classic lines, the domed top, the pink glow of the morning sunrise, the flood lights giving it a bright glow at night that is easily seen for miles.

The Capitol building is a state treasure. The majestic building has a feeling about it that makes you pause and take a longer look.

I am aware each morning as I pull open the door that I am entering a very historic place. I enjoy the feeling and give thanks every day that I have the opportunity to experience this time.

The existing building was completed in 1912. That’s when a lot of the paintings were placed, including the Charlie Russell behind the podium in the House chamber.

I am fortunate to be in row one, the closest seats in the chamber to the painting.

The Old Supreme Court in the capitol, room 303, was also done then. A historic room on its own, with plenty of history and colorful characters that have spoken there.

Wednesday there was a ‘historic bill’ heard in that chamber, in front of the House Education Committee, HB-376, the Charter School proposal.

I was seated at the raised chairman’s table with five others, the remaining 15 on either side as we faced the room. Seemed fitting to me that a ‘historic’ bill would be heard here.

No action taken by the committee, just a four-hour hearing that ended at 7:30.

Rep Windy Boy, from Rocky Boy reservation, a seasoned veteran of both the Senate and the House, is the bill sponsor. At times his voice filled the room with passion and emotion.

I could tell the committee was not as comfortable or maybe at ease as in our regular room.... we were more formal, more planned in what we said, and careful in how we stated our questions. I’ll remember this experience for a long time.

Department heads, OPI, Board of Education, superintendents, school board, union, they were all there. Defending our public schools their task.

The bill sponsor’s job is to make a case that there is a need.... that the public school system is failing the Tribes.

Our state constitution says every child is to be provided a free and quality education. The challenge for the committee is to sort through the records, the testimony, ask the questions and then within a week make the vote that determines if the bill is passed on to the House floor for all 100 representatives to hear, or will we vote to keep the bill in committee with a ‘do not pass?’

The Tribes make a strong case that the existing system is not getting the same results with the students that the non-tribal schools do. Tribal areas have their own unique culture.

Their claim is the “one size fits all” method of instruction and testing is not producing fair and equal results. They want more choice, more flexibility, more focus on the needs of the student.

I asked the director of the State Department of Education what kind of a “grade” he would give himself in serving equally the needs of the tribal schools?

The needs are not the same. The tribal school results are not the same. Is more choice a solution? Are charter schools a possible option? We’ll know soon how the House Education committee views it.

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