Audio: House Appropriations Committee hearing on BIA budget

Students at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School on the Leech Lake Reservation in Minnesota. Photo from Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School

The House Appropriations Committee held a hearing this morning on the fiscal year 2016 budget request for the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

President Barack Obama has requested $2.9 billion for the agency, or $323.5 million above the 2015 level. Programs for Indian education and Indian youth largely contributed to the proposed increase.

The focus on education fits in with the priorities of the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, whose members held the hearing today. The funding bill they advanced last year called for the resumption of Indian school construction and that item was included in Obama's request.

Indianz.Com SoundCloud: House Appropriations Committee February 27 2015

"In today’s global economy, a high quality education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity— it is a prerequisite to success," Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn, the head of the BIA, stated in his written testimony. "President Obama set out a vision for a 21st century education system, grounded in both high academic standards and tribal values and traditions."

Washburn promised to put out an updated school construction priority list before the end of the year to determine which school projects will be funded. The document hasn't been updated since 2004.

YouTube: Budget Hearing - Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education (Interior Subcommittee)

Lawmakers welcomed the development but were alarmed by the testimony of Melissa Emrey-Arras of the Government Accountability Office. She said her agency's visits to schools across Indian Country have uncovered serious problems that aren't always reflected in the data that the BIA plans to use to update the list.

The hearing lasted an hour and 35 minutes. There was a short recess in the middle of the question and answer session with the BIA's witnesses due to a vote on the House floor.

Committee Notice:
Budget Hearing - Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education (February 27, 2015)

FY2016 Budget Documents:
Indian Affairs | Strengthening Tribal Nations and Insular Communities | Fact Sheet | Budget In Brief

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