Ann Kirkpatrick: Fix reservation roads to help Indian students

Poor conditions on the road to the American Horse School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo from American Horse School via Government Accountability Office

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona) announces a Government Accountability Office study on the condition of reservation roads and their impact on school attendance in Indian Country:
Tribal roads are a federal trust responsibility, but without funding to do more, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs blades these roads just once or twice a year, carving deep channels below the surrounding ground level.

About 85,000 Navajo K-12 students use these roads to get to one of the 260 schools on the reservation. Many of these children spend a couple of hours on a bus — each way, every day — because these unmaintained routes are so difficult to traverse.

School districts on the Navajo Nation often wake up to mud emergencies, and when they do, they call their counties for help. County Public Works are the boots on the ground, helping repair and maintain tribal roads that are regional connector roads for both tribal members and other county residents.

I am grateful that the counties in my district are stepping up and doing what, frankly, the federal government is not.

This is more than a transportation issue — it’s a civil rights issue. Navajo students deserve the same access to education as any other student in Arizona, New Mexico or Utah.

Get the Story:
Ann Kirkpatrick: Tribal school kids deserve better roads, access to education (The White Mountain Independent 11/5)

Recent Government Accountability Office Report:
Bureau of Indian Education Needs to Improve Oversight of School Spending (November 13, 2014)

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