Should the Bureau of Indian Affairs Continue To Provide Educational Services to Indian Children?

CED-80-72: Published: Apr 23, 1980. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 1980.

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GAO was asked to comment on the possibility of transferring the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Indian education activities to the Department of Education. In response, GAO prepared a study of current efforts on the part of the Bureau to improve the academic achievement levels of Indian students. During the 1970's, GAO repeatedly reported that the Bureau was not providing quality education to Indians and that its education programs were badly managed. To bring about improvements, Congress enacted the Education Amendments of 1978. The act requires the Bureau to entirely revamp its organizational structure and programs. Moreover, many of the required changes have specific target dates for completion and most must be completed by the end of 1980.

The Education Amendments of 1978 have resulted in the Bureau's taking some very positive actions to correct deficiencies in its educational delivery system to Indians. The new organizational changes give the Director, Office of Indian Education Programs, direct line authority over education. This change along with the new education personnel system and funding criteria provide an excellent opportunity for the Bureau to improve its education programs. In view of these initiatives, GAO believes it would be reasonable to give the Bureau an opportunity to see what it can accomplish. However, the bottom line is whether the new initiatives bring about improvement in the academic achievement levels of Indian students. GAO also believes that a time period of at least 3 to 4 years would be needed to effectively measure changes in the academic achievement levels. However, if adequate progress is not made or cannot be measured because of inadequate testing criteria, GAO believes Congress will have to seriously consider other alternatives for administering Indian programs, including taking the responsibility away from the Bureau.

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