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.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should compare the costs and cultural and academic benefits of constructing small, scattered schools as opposed to larger, centralized schools before schools are scheduled for construction. The Secretary should direct the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs to: enforce the policy of having Indian children attend nearby public schools where adequate facilities are available, establish a policy which would require use of available space in nearby Bureau schools before new schools are built, require comprehensive planning data to justify school construction priorities, require verification of all data, and clarify and enforce BIA policies on school attendance boundaries.

    Agency Affected:


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