Addressing a high school dropout rate of between 50% and 70%, leaders of the Upper Sioux Community, which benefits from a casino operation in Wisconsin, have decreed that children in the ninth grade must earn a high school diploma to receive their share of casino profits.
Speaking for the tribe, Chairwoman Helen Blue-Redner said the graduation requirement is to serve as a motivation for Indian students who tend to lose confidence starting around the fifth grade.
"They’re Indian kids, they’re different and they start to have that little bit of doubt in their minds. This gives them an incentive to go ahead and get a diploma," she said.
Those who fail to earn their diplomas by the age of 18 will have their casino payments placed in a trust fund until they reach the age of 21 years.
The tribe operates the Prairie’s Edge Casino Resort. Per capita payments from the casino profits are distributed to enrolled members who live within a 15-mile radius of the reservation.
Blue-Redner said she thought casino money would improve the quality of life on the reservation, but school dropout rates and crime remain a problem.
"Socially," she said, "we are having a lot of the same issues in post-gaming success as we were in pre-gaming success”¦Things are not really quite where we hoped they would be."