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McCain Introduces Bill to Give Native Students More Choices, Cut BIE Funding

McCain Introduces Bill to Give Native Students More Choices, Cut BIE Funding
March 22
13:51 2016

Tribal schools administered through the Bureau of Indian Education have certainly gotten mixed reviews over the years. Just recently poor management and slumping enrollment caused Leupp Schools, Inc. to lay-off 22 staff members.

Sen. John McCain

Sen. John McCain

U.S. Sen. John McCain has seen enough. The BIE schools have “absolutely failed,” McCain said. That’s why he introduced a bill that would allow Native American children to have more school choices.

The Arizona senator has introduced the Native American Education Opportunity Act (S.2711), which would take money away from the BIE and allow native students to set up “education funds” to apply toward the schools of their choosing. The money could go toward private school tuition, books, tutors and other education-related expenses.

“I think it’s important to give Native children the same opportunity to choose where they want to attend school,” McCain said.

McCain’s bill would take 90-percent of the money that the BIE would have received for the student and place it in a special savings account. (BIE would still receive 10-percent of its funding.)

But Department of Dine Education Superintendent Tommy Lewis thinks S.2711 is extremely shortsighted.

The special accounts wouldn’t address some of the major issues that a Navajo student would face, he said.

“How native tribes could participate is yet to be known. Transportation to a private school – many miles away off the reservation – would pose a problem for many tribal families,” Lewis said.

The National Indian Education Association issued a lukewarm response to McCain’s bill.

NIEA Executive Director Ahniwake Rose called S.2711 “interesting.” ”

Issues – such as construction and maintenance – that BIE schools face cannot be resolved without adequate funding,” she said.

“Ensuring BIE schools have the necessary funds to fix the construction and maintenance problems that have plagued the BIE system is NIEA’s priority,” Rose said in a statement.

McCain does not see his bill as a problem for the BIE, noting that S.2711 only allows students to attend a different school, but does not force them to.

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