Bipartisan letter urges Interior Department to assure transparency, fairness in school construction project prioritization process in Indian Country
In order to uphold the United States government’s trust responsibility to provide a quality education for Native American students, U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined a bipartisan group of senators to demand that the U.S. Department of the Interior prioritize the next list of construction projects at Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools in a more accurate and transparent manner. One-quarter of tribal schools are in New Mexico, and many are in very poor condition.
In a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the senators urged the Interior Department not to develop a construction priority list until it incorporates recommendations from an ongoing Government Accountability Office study on BIE facilities, which will be available later this year, and includes meaningful input from tribal leaders. Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) also signed the letter.
“Failure to address dangerous and outdated school conditions in a timely manner weakens the literal foundations of the federal government’s trust responsibility,” the senators wrote. “We cannot allow poor BIE planning and lack of stakeholder communication to leave this problem unresolved for another 10 years.”
The BIE School Construction Priority List is an index from the 183 BIE schools and facilities in need of construction or repair. The Interior Department last produced the list in 2004, and is scheduled to release a new list this year.
According to the “Broken Promises, Broken Schools” study, 34 percent of BIE schools are in poor condition, which can contribute to lower student achievement.
The full text of the letter is HERE