Senators to Interior: Additional input is needed to avoid another decade of outdated schools

Bipartisan letter urges Interior Department to include GAO findings before prioritizing construction projects in Indian Country

(U.S. Senate) – In order to uphold the United States government’s trust responsibility to provide a quality education for Native students, Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) are demanding that more input be included before the Interior Department prioritizes construction projects at Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools.

In a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the bipartisan group of Senators urged the Interior Department not to release a priority list until incorporating recommendations of an ongoing Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on BIE facilities. The GAO study will be available later this year.

“Failure to address dangerous and outdated school conditions in a timely manner weakens the literal foundations of the federal government’s trust responsibility,” the Senators wrote.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 of 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 and these conditions can contribute to lower student achievement.

You can read the Senators’ letter to Secretary Jewell here.