TACOMA, Wash. — About 76 kids are unable to attend a tribal school that has stopped enrolling students who are not registered with a tribe.

The Puyallup Tribe of Indians operates Chief Leschi Schools for kids from about 60 tribes in preschool through high school, the News Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/2buTScJ ).

Superintendent Amy Eveskcige said the board decided on stricter enrollment standards after it was discovered that students without tribal registration left a $930,000 gap in school funding that had to be made up with other sources. That accounts for about 20 percent of the schools $4.5 million operating budget.

The federal Bureau of Indian Education kicks in about $5,000 for each registered tribe member enrolled.

The schools have to be able to pay bills and put Puyallup Tribe kids first, Eveskcige said.

“We are a tribal school that belongs to the Puyallup Tribe,” she said. “All the other tribes are guests in our home.”

Enrollment this year is expected to stay about the same, between 800 and 900 students, Eveskcige said.

Notices were sent in late August to families like Breanna McNeece and her 10-year-old son Roland Ware. McNeece said she and her family have been trying to register as official members of the Cherokee tribe, her heritage, for years.

Ware has been attending the school since kindergarten and was anticipating the start of his fifth grade year there.

They received their notice Aug. 23, and McNeece said she is now trying to get her son into a nearby school.

“They are punishing the students,” McNeece said. “It’s not fair.”

McNeece said she plans to appeal the school’s decision so that her son can continue to receive an education that includes Native culture.

“I wish they would try their hardest and do the best they can to try to get kids back in school,” Roland Ware said.

Classes start Thursday.

Information from: The News Tribune, http://www.thenewstribune.com

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