Child Care in Montana: Access to Affordable and Quality Care

In today’s economy, more and more families struggle to get by on low wages and to provide resources that enable their children to succeed. Access to quality and affordable child care is one solution that enables parents to maintain stable employment and provides children with the skills they need to succeed in school and beyond.

While current child care costs are often out of reach for many low-and moderate-income families in Montana, some families can receive assistance through the state’s Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship program. Unfortunately, because of application and eligibility requirements and inadequate federal and state funding, not all families who need child care assistance receive it. Program changes, like increasing eligibility limits to federally recommended levels, and significant state investments to increase reimbursement rates for child care providers would help ensure that more low-income families are able to receive assistance to pay for child care. It would also ensure that low-income families are not subject to additional costs beyond their means and enable them to access high-quality care options in their communities.

Child Care Report

Child Care Assistance Helps Low-Income Parents Work and Earn More.

Today’s blog is the second in a series of four blogs on child care in Montana.

Access to affordable child care is key to helping low-income families remain employed, supporting families, and building financial security.

All states operate child care assistance programs through the support of the federal Child Care Development Fund (CCDF). Here in Montana, our child care assistance program is called the Best Beginnings Child Care Scholarship Program. The Best Beginnings Scholarship program reimburses child care providers who care for some low-income children. Studies have shown that such programs help low-income parents maintain employment in the following ways:

  1. Reducing child-care disruptions that pull parents out of work. Low-income parents often do not have access to stable child care, which forces them to scramble to find care for their children before work. Many low-wage workers also do not have access to paid days off, like sick days or family leave, and must rearrange their work schedules to care for their own children when they are sick, causing them to lose out on a day’s worth of earnings or lose their job altogether. Child care assistance programs offer parents access to reliable care options, enabling them to maintain stable employment. A study in Illinois found that families who receive child care assistance were 25 percent less likely to experience problems like missing work, starting late, or quitting work because of child-care issues.

Alternatively, employers suffer when parents have child care challenges. Estimates suggest that U.S. businesses lose up to $4.4 billion each year when employees miss work for child care needs. 

  1. Increasing work hours and earnings. When parents have reliable child care, they are able to show up to work on time and stay for their entire shift, which allows them to work more and remain employed for longer periods of time. A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that mothers with young children who receive child care assistance are 40 percent more likely to be employed two years down the road.

Further, individuals who work more, earn more. Every dollar counts for low-income families, especially for single parents working hard to support families on their own. One study in South Carolina compared earnings over time between single mothers who received child care assistance and single mothers who did not receive assistance. Researchers found that mothers who received assistance saw annual earnings grow by $7,500 over six years, while mothers who didn’t receive assistance saw annual earnings grow only $3,000 over the same period.

  1. Supporting individuals looking for work. In Montana, over 9,700 low-income children live in families where both (or single) parents are out of work. Child care assistance enables parents searching for work to focus on preparing for and attending job interviews, which can increase the likelihood of finding a job faster and getting back on the path toward financially stability.

Tomorrow we’ll release a comprehensive report on child care in Montana, including affordability, how Montana’s Best Beginnings Scholarship program helps low-income parents pay for child care, and options to improve access to affordable and high-quality care in our state. Friday, we’ll follow up with the third blog in our series, examining Montana’s Best Beginnings Scholarship program in more depth.

 

Child Care is Out of Reach for Families in Montana

It’s back-to-school! The beginning of the school year can take a lot of pressure off of parents who have had to juggle work, summer camps, and child care demands throughout the summer. When kids are back in school, working parents can rest assured that their kids are in a safe and learning environment. But what about parents whose children are not old enough to be enrolled in school yet? This week we’re exploring child care in Montana. Today’s blog, the first in a series of four, delves into child care affordability.

More and more families struggle to get by on low wages and provide resources that support children. Access to quality and affordable child care is one solution that enables parents to maintain stable employment and gives children the skills they need to succeed.

Unfortunately, child care is out of reach for many working families in Montana. On average, a family will spend $7,900 a year ($660 a month) to place their four-year old in full-time center care. The steep cost of child care, combined with a low state median income ranks Montana the 12th least affordable state for child care for families with a four year old. For families with infants, the cost is even higher, running more than $9,000 a year ($755 a month) per infant.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) considers child care affordable if it consumes less than 10 percent of a family’s income. In Montana, both low-and middle-income families spend above this threshold on child care. For example, a two-parent family with median household earnings ($74,300) and two children in care devotes 21 percent of their total income on child care alone. For this family, child-care expenses exceed even big-budget items like housing and college tuition [Chart 1].

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Paying for child care is an even greater challenge for low-income families in Montana. Over 34,000 low-income children are living in households where both parents – or a single parent – must work to pay the bills and put food on the table. These children need safe and stimulating care environments while their parents are at work, but parents who earn low-wages often cannot afford high-quality care. For a single mother working full-time and earning minimum wage ($16,744 a year), the cost of full-time child care for a four-year old makes up nearly half of her entire income (47 percent), taking already strained resources away from basic necessities like rent, food, health care, and transportation.

Some low-income families in Montana qualify for assistance to help cover the costs of child care. Stay tuned tomorrow to learn more about how child care assistance helps parents maintain stable employment, earn more, and enter the workforce. Later in the week, we will learn about some possible solutions to making quality child care affordable for more families.

MBPC’s Montana Indian Country Index

Number of federally recognized tribes in Montana : 11

Number of state recognized tribes : 1

Number of Indian reservations : 7

Year the Sioux, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Blackfeet, Crow, and Cheyenne territories were officially recognized by a single treaty with the U.S. government : 1851

Year the first two reservations were formally established : 1855

Year Montana became a state : 1889

Number of treaties signed by the Cheyenne : 8

Number of treaties signed by tribes now located in Montana that were never ratified by Congress : 6

Year the last reservation in Montana was created : 1916

Number of reservations in Montana created by treaty : 3

Number created by executive order : 3

Number created by Congressional statute : 1

Number of tribal nations in Montana that reorganized their governing structure under the terms of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act : 5

Number of tribes that have received Self-Governance status : 2

Number currently operating under a 501(c)(3) status : 1

Percentage of the Montana population that was American Indian prior to 1805 : 100

Percentage in 2015 : 6.6

Percentage of Rocky Boy’s Reservation residents who were non-Indian in 2000 : 3.7

Percentage on Flathead : 73.3

Percentage of American Indians who resided in urban areas in Montana in 2000 : 41.6

Percentage of American Indians working off-reservation who pay state income taxes : 100

Percentage of all working American Indians in Montana who pay federal income taxes : 100

American Indian median household income in 2014 : $30,284

Average number of dollars brought into Montana by tribes annually between 2003 and 2009 : $947,727,265

Number of dollars contributed to the Montana economy by tribal colleges in 2009 : $76,200,000

Number of 2-year degree programs offered at Fort Peck Community College : 18

Number of 4-year degree programs offered at Salish Kootenai College : 14

Percentage of full-time students enrolled at Salish Kootenai College in 2014 who were non-Indian : 23.7

Percentage of non-Indian students enrolled at Blackfeet Community College in 2015 : 4

Percentage of inmates serving time in the state prison in 2014 who were American Indian : 27.7

Times greater that American Indians are represented in the prison population than in the state population : 4.2

Number of American Indians serving in the state legislature in 2015 : 8

Percentage that are female : 63

Average life expectancy of American Indian women in Montana in 2013 : 62

Average life expectancy of American Indian men in Montana : 56

Average life expectancy of a non-Indian man in Montana : 75

Median age of American Indians in Montana : 29

Sources cited are available here. 

 

Educators link tax cuts measures and lack of investment in education

A few weeks ago, the Montana Budget and Policy Center released its new report – The Montana We Could Be. The report details how the income tax cuts passed in 2003, which largely benefited wealthiest households – has resulted in millions in lost revenue. This revenue could have gone to targeted investments into our communities. One area of focus is the ongoing needs in infrastructure – maintaining roads and bridges, water systems, and quality schools. As shown in the chart, the needs far exceed current levels of funding. Last session, the legislaturefunded-unfunded failed to pass a bipartisan infrastructure package, which would have provided $150 million for new infrastructure projects.

As another school year is about to start, several long-time teachers – residing in three Montana communities – highlighted the need for investments in education, including school facilities. Teachers across Montana do an incredible job each day ensuring that our children are given the opportunity to succeed in this state. But too often, educators are faced with teaching our next generations in facilities that fail to provide the 21st Century learning environment that our children need to succeed in today’s world. Even worse – basic maintenance issues continue to stack up – leaking roofs, impaired heating systems, and electrical problems. More than two-thirds of Montana’s schools were constructed before 1970, and a report from 2008 shows overall deferred maintenance needs exceeds $900 million.

We can and should do better. As our report and yesterday’s op-ed highlights, Montana is faced with a tight budget, in part, due to tax cuts put in place over a decade ago. These tax cuts – billed as a way to grow the economy – resulted in deep tax cuts for the wealthiest households, while the vast majority of Montana families saw little or no benefit. Over the past decade, these tax cuts have cost the state nearly $1 billion in lost revenue – revenue that could have been invested in our children and our communities.

Meanwhile, local cities and towns – and local property taxpayers – are left holding the bag to ensure our neighborhoods and schools can thrive. While state K-12 funding has increased over the past two decades, property tax revenue used to pay for education has increased at a much greater rate.

Over the years, Montana families and our communities have stepped up to ensure our children can succeed. We know our entire state moves forward when we have a quality educational system. However, we also must ensure everyone is paying their fair share and carrying their weight. It is time to reform our tax system to ensure the wealthy are paying their fair share, so that we can invest in a brighter future for Montana.

Position Announcement: Outreach and Communications Coordinator

Organizational and Position Background

The Montana Budget and Policy Center (MBPC) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with the mission to advance responsible tax, budget, and economic policies through credible research and analysis in order to promote opportunity and fairness for all Montanans.

MBPC is seeking an Outreach and Communications Coordinator to organize efforts regarding a number of policy priorities including advocating for a fair tax structure and a responsible state budget that provides adequate revenue to invest in our communities and families. Reporting to the Co-Director of Public Affairs, this position will work collaboratively with the MBPC staff and coalition partners to develop and implement communication and outreach strategies to broaden the impact of MBPC’s initiatives.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Provide support for a statewide coalition focused on tax fairness and ensuring adequate revenue for a strong state budget
  • Assist in drafting of advocacy, educational, outreach, and lobbying materials
  • Support activities related to the legislative session, including, but not limited to: research and monitoring bills and committees, community education, rallies, and action alerts
  • Supporting the Co-Director in the planning and execution of organizational communications and outreach strategies
  • Assist with the organization’s web presence, including regular email communication, website, social media platforms, in a manner consistent with MBPC’s messaging
  • Synthesize technical information into relatable, simplified materials (e.g. talking points, action alerts, and policy updates)
  • Educate coalition participants and potential allies through a variety of communication channels to convey key information about the state’s budget, the importance of raising revenues fairly, and the coalition’s action agenda.
  • Initiate, build relationships, and recruit new coalition members from with members of the low-income, faith-based, business, and other relevant communities.

Required Experience and Education

  • Exceptional written and verbal communication skills, including experience in public speaking and development of outreach materials
  • Sense of humor
  • Strong ability to work independently as well as in a collaborative environment
  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent in communications, public policy, or a related field (advanced degree preferred)
  • Capacity to build and maintain relationships with a wide range of groups and individuals
  • Ability to prioritize, multi-task, and work at a high capacity in order to meet deadlines
  • Strong abilities in Microsoft Office Suite, outreach database systems, and Internet research tools
  • Experience in the state legislative process is preferred
  • Knowledge of data analysis or research capabilities is preferred
  • Knowledge of graphic design and web page tools (Illustrator, InDesign, WordPress, or other programs) is preferred

Position Details

The ideal candidate will work full time and be based in Helena. However, a truly outstanding candidate who is based elsewhere in Montana will be considered.

Montana Budget and Policy Center provides competitive salary and benefit packages within the non-profit sector, including health, retirement, and leave benefits. Applicants are encouraged to provide expected salary range.

To Apply:

To apply, submit a cover letter and resume by email (preferred) or mail to:

tjensen@montanabudget.org

-or-

Montana Budget and Policy Center

101 N. Last Chance Gulch, #220

Helena, MT 59601

The position is open until filled. Initial application review will include all applications received by August 10.

MBPC is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, religious or political affiliation, disability, and any other classification considered discriminatory under applicable law.

Montana experiences significant positive impacts of Medicaid expansion

Today, the HELP Oversight Committee will meet for its quarterly meeting to review and discuss the implementation of Medicaid expansion in Montana. We’ll get an update on how many people have enrolled, the corresponding reduction in the uninsured rate, and the amount of federal dollars that have flowed into Montana communities for Medicaid provider payments to access affordable health care.

These numbers are impressive – well above initial projections. Tens of thousands of Montanans now have greater access to life-saving services, low or no-cost preventative care, and other health services. We will also hear from hospitals, providers, and others that are seeing the impact of improved access to health insurance.

It will be another year or two before we fully understand the scope of the economic benefits of Medicaid expansion here in Montana, but we can see from other states that the impacts are significant and far reaching. Dozens of studies have been conducted on the effects of expanding coverage, and the Kaiser Family Foundation has compiled a nice summary of that research. Here’s what they’ve found:

States that have expanded Medicaid have seen sharp declines in the number of uninsured adults. From 2012 to 2016, states that expanded Medicaid have experienced nearly 50 percent decline in the uninsured rate for non-elderly adults. This compares with a decline of non-expansion states of about 33 percent. (Because expansion states started at a lower rate, this difference in the decline really understates the effects of expansion, since non-expansion states simply had further room to drop.) States that expanded Medicaid through the federal waiver process, such as Arkansas, are seeing similar increases in coverage.

Individuals are better accessing health services. Some studies have shown that individuals are more likely to access care in expansion states, including finding a personal physician and being able to access needed medication. Additionally, expansion also appears to be having an impact on affordability of care: several studies have found that low-income families report less unmet health care needs because of financial reasons.

More work can be done to provide health insurance education to improve the kinds of services that families are accessing. The great news coming from expansion states is that low-incomes families are utilizing certain types of preventative care more, including dental visits, breast exams, and mammograms. And patients with chronic health conditions are better accessing regular care. However, some states have also seen increases in the use of hospital visits, thus emphasizing that enrollment and health insurance education go hand-in-hand.

Impact on health outcomes continues to be studied. More time is really needed to determine how Medicaid expansion impacts health outcomes; however, initial studies have shown at least some positive impact. For example, as the Kaiser report notes, a study of childless adults living below the poverty line showed that these individuals accessed greater health services resulting in “modest improvements in self-rated health and decreases in the number of work days missed due to poor health.” Similar results were found in a study of individuals who were homeless and accessing life-changing surgeries or treatment otherwise unavailable without insurance.

Economic benefits exceed expectations. States that have expanded Medicaid are experiencing considerable budgetary and economic benefits. The injection of billions of federal dollars into local economies has represented significant economic growth for these states, including growth in states’ gross domestic product (GDP), increased general fund revenue, and the creation of good paying jobs. Several state-specific studies show that these economic benefits will continue, even factoring in the required state match in the later years.

Pow Wows Bring Culture and Economic Bursts to Communities

American Indian pow wows are many things. They are reflections of both traditional and contemporary tribal cultures. They are spectacular displays of athleticism, craftsmanship, and a distinctive style of music and singing abilities. But they are also events that spark short-term economic growth for local and neighboring communities. This blog reports on the economic impacts of three diverse pow wows in our state: the Arlee Celebration, located on the Flathead Reservation; MSU-Bozeman’s large off-reservation pow wow; and Poplar Indian Days, located on the remote Fort Peck Reservation.

While several factors play into economic impact, pow wows are often categorized as cultural tourism for the fact that they bring in numerous out-of-towners—spectators, dancers, drummers, and oftentimes hand game contestants—all of whom leave their money in the local economy. Two key factors that play into the level of attendance (and corresponding economic impact) are location and whether or not the pow wow is a contest pow wow. Some pow wows are small social gatherings and celebrations. But many, including a majority of the larger ones, are contests, meaning they feature highly competitive dance and drumming competitions where winners are awarded cash prizes. In these cases, payout amounts and the notoriety of head staff and host drum can all affect turnout and therefore economic impact.

The Arlee Celebration is now in its 118th year and, according to Pow Wow Committee Chairman Willie Stevens, brings in approximately 5,000-6,000 spectators, 2,000-3,000 campers in about 500 camps, 500 dancers, 240 drummers, 300-600 hand game contestants, 20 food stand vendors, 20 arts and crafts venders, and 10 non-profit information booths. Stevens reports that this influx of people benefits “all local businesses from grocery stores to gas station to restaurants and any tourist shops and casinos.” This economic boost impacts not only the Flathead Reservation’s Jocko and Mission valleys, but also the greater western Montana region, including Missoula, as food vendors and many of the campers get their supplies and other items there.

The Arlee pow wow is unique in terms of its economic impact on multiple communities. While the impact of MSU-Bozeman’s pow wow is largely confined to the city of Bozeman, it is still notable. Richard White, pow wow advisor and director of American Indian/Alaska Native Student Success at MSU-Bozeman, reports that their free-admission/registration pow wow attracts between 2,500-4,000 spectators, 200-300 dancers, 200-250 drummers, 45-60 vendors, many of whom utilize local services like hotels, restaurants, gas stations. They also take advantage of local attractions and the shopping available in one of the few urban centers in Montana.

Smaller pow wows held at more remote locations like Poplar Indian Days on Fort Peck have a smaller overall impact but still work to spark economic growth. Greg and Mary Plante and Raymond “Abby” Ogle, who work to plan the pow wow, estimate that it brings into Poplar about 2,000-3,000 spectators, half of whom are reservation residents. They also estimate that it draws between 120-150 drummers, 200-350 dancers, and 12-15 vendors. They believe that these additional consumers positively impact the economic climate of the tiny town of Poplar, which usually boasts a population count of 810 residents.

pow wow pic

2015 Kyi-Yo Grand Entry. Photo courtesy of UM Kyi-Yo Native American Student Association.

While pow wows are primarily about bringing people together to celebrate tribal culture, family and friends, they also have an economic impact by creating varying degrees of economic growth across our state. Every reservation hosts one or more pow wows, as do many of our urban centers with sizeable Native populations. All pow wows are open to the general public and a majority of them do not charge admission. Pow wows run throughout the summer months and are a great way to see our state. They’re also an opportunity to support local businesses, including those that are Indian owned. To find a list of Indian owned businesses, check out the Montana Indian Business Alliance’s website.

MBPC encourages you to check out a pow wow near you. If you are new to pow wows, check out “Your Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Pow Wows.” It is a great tool to learning about pow wows in Montana.

Calendar of Montana Pow Wows

  • MSU-Bozeman American Indian Council Pow Wow: March 25-26, 2016, Bozeman
  • MSU-Billings Pow Wow: April 8, 2016, Billings
  • UM Kyi-Yo Pow Wow: April 22-23, 2016, Missoula
  • 118th Arlee Celebration: June 29-July 4, 2016, Arlee
  • Northern Cheyenne 4th of July Chiefs Pow Wow: June 30-July 4, 2016, Lame Deer
  • North American Indian Days: July 7-10, 2016, Browning
  • Standing Arrow Pow Wow: July 14-17, 2016, Elmo
  • Milk River Indian Days: July 29-31, 2016, Fort Belknap Agency
  • Annual Rocky Boy’s Celebration: August 5-7, 2016, Box Elder
  • Hays Pow Wow: August 10-15, 2016, Hays
  • Crow Fair and Rodeo: August 17-22, 2016, Crow Agency
  • Poplar Indian Days: September 2-4, 2016, Poplar
  • North American Indian Alliance Pow Wow: September 9-10, 2016, Butte
  • Last Chance Community Pow Wow: September 30-October 2, 2016, Helena

Happy Mother’s Day: 18 paid leave victories give moms the gift of time

Sunday is Mother’s Day! Truly, time is one of the best gifts for moms. Working moms want (and need) time to care for themselves and their loved ones and to be able to earn a paycheck. Unfortunately, many working Americans do not have access to paid leave, putting their and their families’ health and financial security at risk.

But momentum for paid leave is growing. This past year, we saw 18 victories throughout the country, providing families (and moms) more time through paid family leave and paid sick days.

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 Family Leave Victories

Shifting work and family patterns mean that most parents must work in order to put food on the table. In Montana, 48 percent of the workforce is made up of women, 70 percent of children have both parents in the workforce, and many women are either co-breadwinners or are fully supporting their families. Yet, women are still considered primary caregivers and often have to reduce their work schedules – or leave work entirely – to care for seriously ill loved ones. When this happens, women can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars over their lifetimes, which takes a toll on their ability to provide for their families and contribute to their local businesses and communities.

The United States lags behind every industrialized economy in providing a national paid leave program. However, over the past decade, several states – California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island – have created statewide paid family leave programs to help workers balance home and care demands. Recently, victories in New York, California, and Montana guarantee workers a better balance.

New York – In early April, New York became the fourth state to enact a statewide family leave insurance program, guaranteeing workers a portion of their weekly wages when they have a baby or need time off to care for a seriously ill family member. Workers can access benefits starting January 2018.

Californialawmakers expanded upon the state’s existing paid family leave program and now provide low-wage workers 70 percent of their weekly wages during leave. This will encourage lower-wage workers to use the program when they need it and will ensure they remain financially secure during leave.

San FranciscoBecame the first city in the country to require employers to provide fully paid parental leave. Starting in January 2017, employers with more than 50 workers located San Francisco will make up the difference between the state’s plan so that employees will receive 100 percent of their weekly earnings during parental leave.

Missoula – In March, Missoula County Board of Commissioners adopted a paid parental leave policy. Starting July 1st, county employees will have access to six weeks of paid parental leave after the birth or adoption of a new child.

Sick Days Victories

Similar to family leave, access to paid sick days allows workers the time to recover from a routine illness and care for sick children or family members while receiving their wages.

Over the past year, 2 states (Vermont and Oregon), 11 cities, and 1 county have enacted paid sick days laws, guaranteeing over 715,000 workers the right to earn a set number of sick days annually. Over the past decade, sick days victories in 32 locations have provided more than 10 million workers access to paid sick leave.

Moms work hard, whether it is in the home, the workforce, or both. They deserve access to workplace policies that provide them adequate time off to attend to their needs and their families’ needs without risking their economic security. There’s growing support for paid leave policies throughout the country. The staff at MBPC is excited to work with organizations and families across the state to find Montana solutions to better support workers and their families.

 

GUEST BLOG: A Brighter Future Because of Tribal College

Today, the Montana Budget and Policy Center will hear from one Montanan and her story what tribal college means to her.

The tribal college on my reservation has impacted my life more than any other organization, which is ironic because I never planned on attending college. I grew up in St. Ignatius, just 20 miles south of Salish Kootenai College (SKC).   During my senior year of high school I transferred to Two Eagle River School, our tribal school that literally borders SKC, and completed early. I was eager to get out on my own and experience life outside the reservation. But as many of us discover, life outside the rez isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I worked a couple of jobs but didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Luckily, my older sister enrolled me at SKC and told me to come home.  

Jody Perez photo

During my first year at SKC I had the opportunity to develop several basic academic and organizational skills, but I also learned what it meant to be a part of the SKC family. I got engaged to the student body president and we got married on campus in the Michel Building. Joe McDonald, the college president, emceed our wedding. Many of our guests were staff and faculty and many others were connected to the college in some way. We even lived on campus because my husband was the site manager for student housing. I felt support and love from the SKC family, which I was now a part of.

The next year I switched degree programs twice and we welcomed our first baby. I held a part-time job at the local travel agency and took classes that interested me, quickly discovering that I enjoyed and excelled in accounting. These classes helped me obtain a full-time job in the finance department at Mission Valley Power. Shortly thereafter, I completed my associate’s degree in general studies. Little did I know that this degree would open future job opportunities that would play a big role in changing our lives.

After the birth of our second child, I decided to put work and school on pause to focus on our family, which soon grew to four children. I stayed home with them for seven years, all the while living in student housing. My husband continued to work for the college and was also the women’s basketball coach. Living on campus and attending games and other events enabled me to remain active in the SKC family. My love and appreciation for the college continued to grow.

When I was ready to return to the workforce, my associate’s degree and the work experience I acquired because of my SKC classes helped me secure the payroll manager position for our tribe. The additional income made it possible for us to purchase our first home, a dream I wasn’t sure we would ever be able to realize. We moved out of student housing but were still very involved in the SKC family. In 2012, I applied for an open seat on the SKC Board of Directors. I am honored to be serving my second term and am currently the vice chair.

I strive to ensure that students find the same support and love that I did. I am forever indebted to SKC for lifting me up, leading me down a good path, strengthening my cultural knowledge, and always believing in me.

Presently, I am working full-time for our tribal housing authority. My position has afforded me the opportunity to finish what I started fifteen years ago. I have been attending SKC full-time for the past year and will be receiving my associate’s degree in business next month. I will continue at SKC until I earn my bachelor’s in business management. I will never stop being involved in and supporting tribal colleges because I know that they enable people like me to increase our overall quality of life by enabling us to access a broad-based education that allows us to obtain better jobs, helping to end cycles of poverty and dysfunction. They allow us to develop strong support networks that cultivate self-esteem and self-efficacy. Ultimately, they are a powerful and effective way for people to create a brighter future for themselves, their families, and our communities.

 

-Jody Perez is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. She is a past and current student at SKC and also serves as the Vice Chair on the SKC Board of Directors.