CNMI: Refaluwasch and Chamorro Language Materials Show Value of Congressional “Earmarks”


Saipan – Students in 16 Public School System schools are learning and using their Refaluwasch and Chamorro languages as a result of new instructional materials the Public School System has created with a $250,000 earmarked appropriation from Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan.

The Congressman got to see a selection of the book, flipcharts, and other learning aids that the PSS bilingual program has produced using the earmark funds at this month’s Board of Education meeting. A total of 7,560 books, 150 flip charts, and a series of 16 videos were produced with the congressionally directed funding.

“It’s great to see the results of the work that we did in Congress way back in 2009 finally getting into the hands of our young Refaluwasch and Chamorro language students,” Sablan said.

“Because getting the funding is just the first step. Then there is all of the work to put the money to effective use in our schools: translating the materials, getting everything printed and filmed, and training teachers in how to use these resources.

“PSS and the Chamorro and Carolinian Language Heritage Studies program have done a fine job in that respect.”

Sablan submitted his $250,000 proposal for bilingual study funds during the fiscal year 2010 appropriation cycle; and after making it through the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate the bill with Sablan’s money was signed by the President on December 16, 2009. Altogether Sablan won $1.35 million in congressionally directed funding, or “earmarks,” for the Northern Marianas in FY10. Most went to education.

PSS was formally awarded the funding, after submitting the necessary plan of expenditure, in August of 2010 and has been working on putting the money to use in the intervening years.

PSS bought the rights to translate newly published, Common Core aligned, Bright and Brainy Resource Books for grades K-6 into Refaluwasch and Chamorro. Professional development/work sessions were held for local teachers to work on the translations.


[Congressman Kilili, Board of Education Members, PSS administrators, and students are all smiles looking over books, flip charts, and other instructions materials that have been translated in Refaluwasch and Chamorro and published for use in 16 public schools. The work was paid for with a $250,000 earmark that Congressman Sablan had included in the FY10 congressional appropriation for education. The money also paid for training staff in the use of materials. The project was carried out by the Chamorro and Carolinian Language Heritage Studies program at PSS.]

The grant also underwrote the cost of producing a first-ever televised program that took language lessons right into the homes of Northern Marianas viewers and provided teachers with a total of 16 episodes to be used in classrooms.

FY10 was the last fiscal year that congressional earmarks were available. Senate Republicans, who objected to the earmarking process on principle, killed the FY11 appropriation with the threat of a filibuster. That appropriation contained another $2 million for the Northern Marianas, including funds for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument Visitors Center, a Rota school gymnasium, a Seniors program on Tinian, and another $500,000 for PSS.

“We have seen the last of earmarks,” Sablan said, “as long as Republicans are able to block legislation in this way.

“That makes it especially hard for small places like the Northern Marianas, which now have to compete for funds against states and cities that have a lot more resources to put into grant writing.

“I am glad to see, however, that the funds we did get – for the Refaluwasch and Chamorro language programs, for the Joeten-Kiyu Library roof repairs, for the Garapan Public Market, for the Monument Visitors Center – are being put to use now to benefit the Northern Marianas.”