The National Congress of American Indians
TITLE: To Support the Creation of a Tribal/Federal Task Force to Study the Funding Constraints of the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) and Next Steps
WHEREAS, we, the members of the National Congress of American Indians of the United States, invoking the divine blessing of the Creator upon our efforts and purposes, in order to preserve for ourselves and our descendants the inherent sovereign rights of our Indian nations, rights secured under Indian treaties and agreements with the United States, and all other rights and benefits to which we are entitled under the laws and Constitution of the United States, to enlighten the public toward a better understanding of the Indian people, to preserve Indian cultural values, and otherwise promote the health, safety and welfare of the Indian people, do hereby establish and submit the following resolution; and
WHEREAS, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) was established in 1944 and is the oldest and largest national organization of American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments; and
WHEREAS, through its unique relationship with Indian nations and tribes, the federal government has established programs and resources to meet the educational needs of American Indians and Alaska Natives residing on and off their reserved or non-reserved homelands; and
WHEREAS, the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) directly oversees a total of 183 elementary, secondary, residential and peripheral dormitories across 23 states that serve roughly 41,000 Indian students living on or near reservations; and
WHEREAS, under the BIE system, an additional 126 schools are tribally controlled under Public Law 93-638 Indian Self Determination contracts or contracts under the Tribally Controlled Grant Schools Act (Public Law 100-297); and
WHEREAS, BIE’s mission is to provide Indian students quality educational opportunities starting in early childhood in accordance with a tribe’s need for cultural and economic well-being; and
WHEREAS, the high school graduation rate for BIE students in 2011 was 61 percent, placing BIE in the bottom half among graduation rates for Indian students attending public schools in states where BIE schools are located; and
WHEREAS, BIE schools are primarily funded through the Department of the Interior, however, it also receives annual formula grants from the Department of Education, similar to public schools; and
WHEREAS, the structure of funding and administrative bureaucracy for the BIE is causing significant challenges for the BIE and Indian schools to improve student academic performance; and
WHEREAS, while the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which oversees funding for the BIE, has undertaken another realignment of its administrative functions, it is unclear to what extent, if at all, the changes will result in improved services for BIE and its schools; and
WHEREAS, the BIA implemented its most recent realignment without seeking input from a broad range of education and BIE stakeholders; and
WHEREAS, the BIA failed to develop a strategic plan with specific goals and measures for itself or BIE or strategies to achieve goals; and
WHEREAS, the BIA has not updated its workforce plan or assessed Indian Affairs’ realignment and its impact on BIE to ensure the agency has the right staff in place with the appropriate skills to effectively meet the needs of BIE schools and their ability to serve Native students; and
WHEREAS, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report to Congress in September 2013 highlighting issues reducing the effectiveness of the BIE and proposed possible methods to increase effectiveness; and
WHEREAS, the GAO stated in that same report that it intends to issue a second report that will compare funding and expenditures for BIE schools to those of nearby public schools.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the NCAI calls for the establishment of a Tribal/Federal Task Force (Task Force) comprised of tribal leaders and federal agency representatives to study the funding constraints BIE schools face as well as investigating appropriate measures to be taken to address these concerns culminated into a final report; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this Task Force be comprised of NCAI, the National Indian Education Association (NIEA), the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the Tribal Education Departments National Assembly, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the Department of Education (ED) to study the aforementioned as well as next steps to be taken and potential solutions, such as the impacts of shifting funding streams from the BIA to the BIE so that administrative functions and funding allocations are held strictly within the BIE; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that any potential solutions considered, such as the one aforementioned, must take into account all benefits and consequences arising from each; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NCAI does hereby request this Task Force report’s findings be disseminated to tribes, the Secretaries of the Interior and Education, the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education, and Congress; and
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this resolution shall be the policy of NCAI until it is withdrawn or modified by subsequent resolution.
The foregoing resolution was adopted by the General Assembly at the 2014 Mid-Year Session of the National Congress of American Indians, held at the Dena'ina Civic & Convention Center, June 8-11, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska, with a quorum present.