Questionable Need for All Schools Planned by the Bureau of Indian Affairs

CED-78-55: Published: Feb 15, 1978. Publicly Released: Feb 15, 1978.

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The Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) policy is that, wherever adequate school facilities are available, Indian children should be enrolled in local public schools. The Bureau has estimated that, as of January 1978, about $300 million would be needed to renovate or construct school facilities for educating Indian children. Much of this expenditure could be avoided if Indian children were enrolled in nearby public schools.

A review of justifications for 19 planned schools indicated that adequate public school space was already available in 12 of the localities. These 12 planned schools would cost an estimated $42 million. BIA has not complied with its own policy and allowed these schools to be included in construction plans because BIA has allowed Indian tribes to influence the decision to construct schools regardless of cost and compliance with policies. There is strong tribal feeling toward replacing or obtaining tribal schools regardless of the existence of available space in nearby public or other BIA schools. BIA did not use comprehensive planning data in developing the fiscal year 1979 school construction priority list or verify information submitted on construction request applications. Unless a policy on attendance boundaries is developed, setting priorities on school construction will remain extremely difficult.

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