Committee Democrats Push for Stronger Supports for Native American Schools

WASHINGTON – Today, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education (ECESE) held a hearing entitled, “Examining the Government’s Management of Native American Schools.”  Native families are disproportionately low-income, and the challenges facing tribal communities are immense and well-documented. The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) is a woefully underfunded agency and the students served by schools under its jurisdiction lack the educational opportunities and outcomes of their peers in other parts of the country.

"It is well documented and tragic that American Indian and Alaska Native students have some of the lowest educational outcomes in the country. Extremely poor conditions and severe underfunding of schools do not encompass the whole picture. The outcomes for Native students are also impacted by legacy of colonialism and the broader impacts of poverty – a lack of early learning opportunities, healthcare, nutrition programs, and employment opportunities to name a few," said Ranking Member Jared Polis (CO-02). "Only when we address needs beyond educational services will the welfare of Native youth be addressed."

Educational outcomes for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) students are among the lowest in the nation. According to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data, only 18 percent of AI/AN eighth graders were proficient or advanced in math, and nearly half were below even the basic level.

“We recognize that we face unique and urgent challenges in providing a high-quality education to BIE students. With such challenges come tremendous opportunities for improvement in the way we operate on a day-to-day basis,” said Tony Dearman, Director of the Bureau of Indian Education. “As we work to improve local service delivery, the BIE is focusing its attention on allocating critical resources effectively and efficiently to achieve the agency’s core mission while, at the same time, increasing accountability throughout the agency.”

The BIE is already significantly underfunded; it is concerning that the administration recently proposed cutting BIE’s funding by 16 percent, over $143 million, in the President’s FY2019 Budget. Instead of slashing the BIE budget, the federal government should be acting urgently to honor its verbal and written commitment to Native families through a comprehensive, systemic, and coordinated approach.

OPENING STATEMENT: Ranking Member Jared Polis (CO-02), Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee

OPENING STATEMENT: Tony Dearman, Director of the Bureau of Indian Education, U.S. Department of the Interior

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