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Reform plan urges billions for Bureau of Indian Education schools

Students at Santa Fe Indian School, a Bureau of Indian Education institution in New Mexico. Photo from Facebook

The American Indian Education Study Group is calling for billions of dollars in school construction and improvement projects in Indian Country.

According to the Bronner report, the Bureau of Indian Education needs $1.3 billion to replace or fix problems at the 68 highest-risk schools. Another $967M is needed to reduce the existing repair and maintenance backlog.

"Of the 183 BIE schools, 34 percent (63 schools) are in poor condition, and 27 percent are over 40 years old," the Study Group said in its Blueprint for Reform. "These substandard conditions are not conducive to educational achievement, and they unfairly restrict learning opportunities for students."

The BIE used to maintain a school construction priority list that determined which projects were included in the budget request submitted to Congress. The list, however, hasn't been updated since 2004.

Congress, meanwhile, became reluctant to fund school construction activities, citing concerns about costs and management. But some lawmakers say it's time to re-start the process.

“Nearly two-thirds of BIE schools are in fair to poor condition and yet there has been no strategic planning since 2004," Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, said in press release. "If the BIE doesn’t plan for the future we can never pull Indian Country out of poverty."

Get the Story:
Plan to Improve American Indian Schools Faces Skepticism (Education Week 7/9)

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