Tester slams underfunded BIE budget

Vice-Chairman: there’s incredible value in investing in our kids

(U.S. Senate) – Vice Chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Jon Tester slammed the underfunded Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) budget and called for increased investments to improve education opportunities for Native children.

During a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing, Tester pointed out the disparity in funding between BIE schools and non-BIE public schools. In Montana, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes report the BIE school on the reservation receives about $6,000 less per child than the non-BIE school on the reservation.

“Adequately funded schools create an environment where students can learn and succeed. We must do our part in making sure Native students are afforded the same opportunities as every other child,” Tester said after the hearing. “Budgets are a direct demonstration of our priorities and I hope we can move forward and realize the incredible value in investing in our kids.”

The Administration’s proposed budget would invest $1 billion in Indian Education through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This request would increase the BIE Budget by $153 million.

Last week Tester sent a bipartisan letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell demanding the Interior Department seek more tribal input before prioritizing BIE school construction projects.

The BIE operates 183 school facilities that serve over 42,000 students across 23 states. There are three BIE facilities in Montana: The Two Eagle River School in Pablo, the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School in Busby, and the Blackfeet Dormitory in Browning.

Senator Tester will tour the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School in Busby on Friday.