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May 13, 2015 10:33 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe Uncertain If It Can Continue To Educate Shinnecock Students

Students at the Tuckahoe School. BY ERIN MCKINLEY
May 14, 2015 1:28 PM

A Shinnecock Indian Nation family is challenging a longstanding policy that determines where students from the tribe can go to school, opting to send their children to the Tuckahoe School instead of Southampton this year.

According to Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer, the three children, who have not been identified, started attending school at Tuckahoe in January after several months of petitions to Tuckahoe’s three-member School Board. At the time, the district opted to admit the students—who were not attending any other school district—in the interest of the students, officials said, without seeking any state aid or tuition from the family.

Each year, the State Bureau of Indian Affairs authorizes a contract to pay tuition for each Native American student being taught in a district. However, the state determines the school district where the student will attend class. For the Shinnecock Indian Nation, the state has authorized a contract with the Southampton School District and last year paid just over $3 million in tuition for the roughly 110 students attending the district.

Mr. Dyer said that this year the Tuckahoe School District did not apply for state money for the three students. Still, the state informed the district there was no money available for this year, and that until a new contract could be negotiated, the students would not be allowed to attend Tuckahoe in the fall of 2015, because doing so would violate the state’s contract with Southampton.

However, the state did agree to meet with Tuckahoe officials to discuss whether students might be allowed to attend school in the district using state tuition money in the future. A meeting has not been scheduled.

“We took the kids in this year, because they were out of school and we wanted to make sure that what we were doing was the right thing for the kids,” Mr. Dyer said. “I think from the perspective of the state aid, they said we cannot do it because we are not a part of the contract. But we are waiting to see if we can become a part of that contract, because we have a fiduciary responsibility to our taxpayers.”

According to Mr. Dyer, the district was first approached in October by the family, who said they preferred the smaller Tuckahoe School over Southampton, which has three schools as opposed to one. At the time, Mr. Dyer said, the district informed the family that because of the contract obligations, the students had to attend Southampton. However, the family asked Tuckahoe several more times, and in December was allowed to present a case to the three-member School Board as an out-of-district family. Ultimately, the district opted to enroll the students for the rest of the year.

Mr. Dyer said one of the key factors in allowing the students to enter the school without the state money was that it would have very little impact on the classes, noting that no new classes had to be created, no new staff had to be hired, and the classes the students were added to were not at capacity, meaning other district students were not affected.

But Mr. Dyer admits that the issue of the education contract has been complicated. He said the district has been approached in the past by families looking to enroll at Tuckahoe, and that a portion of the Shinnecock Indian Reservation, along Montauk Highway, does fall within the Tuckahoe School District, making certain families eligible to attend classes, if it were not for the contract with Southampton.

This week, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said there is no reason the Shinnecock students should not be allowed to attend Tuckahoe, adding that even though there is state money involved, the State Education Department should not be able to decide where students attend school.

“I’m in favor of the Shinnecock Nation being able to make that choice for itself as to where it wants to send its kids,” Mr. Thiele said. “Whether you live on the reservation or not, parents get to choose where they send their kids, and the Shinnecocks should not have any less of a right than anybody else to make those choices.”

A representative from the Shinnecock Indian Nation did not return calls seeking comment.

Mr. Dyer said the district hopes to schedule a meeting with the state to allow Tuckahoe to teach Shinnecock students in the future, although he is not sure how many families would be interested.

Southampton Superintendent Dr. Scott Farina said that as far as he knows, the state only authorizes tuition deals for Native American students for one district at a time, and that Southampton has not been notified of any meeting to try to renegotiate the contract to include Tuckahoe. However, the Southampton district has been in contract negotiations with the Shinnecock Nation for a new tuition agreement.

Until that meeting can be scheduled, Mr. Dyer said, it is unclear where the Shinnecock children will attend school in the fall.

“We are uncertain as to how many children would want to come here, but any child can apply for admittance as a non-resident, and we would have a responsibility when they do to collect the tuition rate,” he said. “For now, we are focused on providing a service to kids that were not feeling successful where they were, and we wanted to help them in that process.”

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These children would be able to attend if their parents came to the US. Illegally and lived in a home with 5 other families not paying taxes.
By kpjc (161), east quogue on May 16, 15 8:52 AM
3 members liked this comment
Native Americans. So unless your ancestry includes a Native American tribe. You need to go home. they were here first. Read a history book.
May 17, 15 8:12 AM appended by Polandspring
Sorry - I misread your comment. And apparently can't delete mine.
By Polandspring (96), Southampton on May 17, 15 8:12 AM
Every child has the right to a free and appropriate public education, including these children. It is unfair to them to deny them access to education.
By eemmmily (4), Westhampton Beach on May 16, 15 11:45 AM
1 member liked this comment
They're not being denied of an education...they're being denied of an education in the school of their choosing. If any other resident of the Southampton School District wanted to attend Tuckahoe, they would be required to pay tuition.
By S'hamptonNative (84), Southampton on May 16, 15 2:54 PM
1 member liked this comment
The comparison is not valid. People that live on a reservation do not enjoy the same home ownership/property rights you do. They live on the Reservation. In this case, the Reservation lies squarely within two school districts. Simple logic, while not normally applied in issues involving bureaucracies, would demand that those families have the right to choose their school district and have the state comply with apply reimbursement functions accordingly. It's not a lot to ask all things considered.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 17, 15 10:54 AM
Residents of the Shinnecock Reservation are not forced to live there. As with anyone else, if you don't like the district you must attend either move or pay tuition.
By S'hamptonNative (84), Southampton on May 17, 15 6:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
Quality public education was one of the cornerstones of the post WWII society which made this country great.

The current oligarchy and it's austerity protocols is the great failure of this society.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 16, 15 1:31 PM
1 member liked this comment
Great theory of free education. Who's paying for this free education? Sucker taxpayers.
The Shinnecocks pay no taxes, and actually steal taxes by non taxed cigarettes. The American public is brainwashed that we owe the Shinnecocks anything. Every group in this country thinks they are entitled. I have an idea....... Get a job like everyone else!
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 16, 15 2:25 PM
Another [expletive deleted].

"The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

~ John Kenneth Galbraith
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 16, 15 4:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
Interesting comment...thank you.
By metsfan2 (163), southampton on May 16, 15 6:38 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By metsfan2 (163), southampton on May 16, 15 6:38 PM
I have worked with some of them. And some actually work in the school district. Soooo....I wonder actually who collects the most state help (who doesn't need it) oh drugged out white people. People who have more children than brains. Do your research.
By Polandspring (96), Southampton on May 17, 15 8:18 AM
The tax on cigarettes is paid by the purchaser, not the seller.
By lamm (304), Southampton on May 17, 15 9:45 PM
The Shinnecock Reservation lies in both Tuckahoe and Southampton School Districts. The Bureau of Indian Affairs would not be acting in the best interest of the Shinnecock Nation if they restricted the families in deciding where their children should be educated. It would not be difficult for NY State to divert funds to Tuckahoe to reflect the current situation.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 16, 15 2:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
John kenneth Galbraith a big mouth that never held a job that wasn't goverment given.
With this idiots thinking anyone busting their ass, paying yaxes should give it to the lazy, and ridiculous. That's not how america was made. The man was an elitist fool.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 16, 15 5:00 PM
1 member liked this comment
Are you kidding with that post?

That's the stupidest thing I've read all day. Clearly you know absolutely nothing of Galbraith, or his work.

Your ignorance apparently knows no bounds. Additionally, you also lack any forum etiquette when making replies to a thread. Please do stop embarrassing yourself...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on May 16, 15 5:05 PM
The state pays the Southampton SD the maximum allowed by law to educate the children on the reservation. Perhaps Tuckahoe could charge less and the reservation families could have a choice of schools, after the current contract with Southampton is up. The tuition could be a solution to the financial issues that threaten the future of Tuckahoe, which is only a pre-k to 8 school, and we would still all feed into SH high school. Interesting concept.
By lamm (304), Southampton on May 17, 15 12:02 AM
Tuckahoe wants to pay less, Shinnecocks pay zero, and the rest of us are barely making it. It's sad that we have a country that has half it's citizens thinking they are entitled. This country is in the wrong direction
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 17, 15 12:14 PM
Why should the taxpayers in the Tuckahoe School District pay for tuition for the Shinnecock Nation? If they want to go to Tuckahoe instead of Southampton they should pay tuition like everybody else.

There should not be exceptions made --- although I understand that the Tuckahoe School Board was concerned that these three children would not go to school at all if they weren't permitted to go to Tuckahoe, and, their compassion is admirable.
By JohnSmith (25), Johnson City, Tennessee on May 20, 15 10:07 AM
This issue is not about tuition. Reservation lands are held in trust by the state and those that live there are not subject to property tax. The federal government reimburses the district for the cost. So to answer your initial question, the taxpayers of Tuckahoe should not pay anyone's tuition. Your premise is entirely flawed.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 21, 15 5:33 AM
1 member liked this comment