WINDOW ROCK -- The 20th Navajo Nation Council made a historic decision to enact the Navajo Sovereignty in Education Act. The Council voted 59 in favor and 19 opposed today on the legislation, which was the only item under Old Business on the summer session agenda.
Because it amends portions of Title 2 as well as Title 10, the legislation required 2/3 vote of Council, or 59 votes, to pass.
The amendments reorganize the Division of DinŽ Education to operate more like a state department, which would be run by a superintendent. The amendments also establish a Navajo Nation-wide board of education.
It was a goal of the Education Committee of the 20th Council to amend the education laws of the Navajo Nation since they had not been revisited since 1984. The committee and the division worked together to develop legislation to strengthen the laws, with input from school board members, administrators, teachers, parents and students through work sessions and public hearings.
Education Committee Chairperson Leonard Chee (Birdsprings/Leupp/Tolani Lake) and Vice Chairperson Wallace Charley (Shiprock) brought the proposed Education Code amendments to the Council during the winter session on Jan. 26. Harry Goldtooth (Coalmine Canyon/Toh Nanees Dizi) made the motion to consider the legislation and David Tom (Beclabito/Gadiiahi) made the second.
At that time, after three amendments were passed, a motion to table to the summer session was offered by Larry Noble (Jeddito/Low Mountain/Steamboat), with a second by Cecil Frank Eriacho (Ramah).
The Education Committee and the Division of DinŽ Education took the extra time to educate the public on the amendments through presentations, informational booths and radio panel discussions.
On the morning of July 19, Chee, Charley and Division Director Leland Leonard appeared before Council again as presenters. Omer T. Begay (Cornfields/Greasewood Springs/Klagetoh/ Wide Ruins) made the motion to recall the legislation and Raymond Maxx (Coalmine Canyon/Toh Nanees Dizi) made the second. The vote to recall was 47 in favor and none opposed.
The Council spent the remainder of the morning debating on the proposed legislation, until around noon when Rex Lee Jim (Rock Point) made a motion for the delegates to go into two-hour agency caucus meetings to discuss the legislation further.
When the Council came back into session following the meetings, various amendments were proposed by agency caucus chairs; however, none of the proposed amendments passed. One final attempt was made to refer the legislation back to each of the standing committees, but that failed and the vote on the main motion was taken.