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Senate oversight hearing on Indian education
Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Senate Indian Affairs Committee this morning held an oversight hearing on Indian education. It was chaired by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the chairman of the committee.

Those in attendance included Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the vice chairman, Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyoming) and Sen. Tim Johnson (D-South Dakota). McCain, Dorgan and Johnson repeatedly criticized two Bush administration officials for cuts in the Indian education budget and delays in the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act.

"I've heard the testimony here," said Dorgan, "and some of it doesn't sound to me like it's in English."

Testifying on Panel I were:
• Jim Cason, the associate deputy secretary and acting assistant secretary for Indian affairs
• Victoria Vasques, the director of the Office of Indian Education at the Department of Education.

Both said improving education levels of Indian children is a top priority. Cason said Interior Secretary Gale Norton met with education staff just yesterday to talk about the issue.

McCain responded that the administration seems to have made lots of plans but hasn't actually done anything since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001.

Panel II consisted of:
• Nick Lowery, the acting chairman of the National Fund for Excellence in American Indian Education
• Dr. David Beaulieu, the president of the National Indian Education Association
• Dr. Joe McDonald, the president of the Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Reservation in Montana
• Dr. Roger Bordeaux, the superintendent of the Tiospa Zina Tribal School on the Sisseton Wahpeton Sioux Reservation in South Dakota.

Nick Lowery called for a change in law to allow the National Fund, a Congressionally-chartered organization, to use more administrative funds. The Fund is supposed to direct donations to BIA education activities.

David Beaulieu said the Bureau of Indian Affairs reorganization is having a negative impact on the agency's Office of Indian Education. The NIEA is currently holding hearings nationwide on the No Child Left Behind Act.

Joe McDonald said tribal colleges are struggling to make ends meet due to limited federal funds. Due to inflation, he said the colleges are essentially operating with fewer funds every year. "Forward funding will go a long way for us," he testified.

Roger Bordeaux said he was "disturbed" by Cason's suggestion to add more senior executive service employees at the BIA. "I would be willing to bet part of my salary that that's not going to make a difference over time," he said. He said the Bush administration is preparing to take $3.4 million from Indian education to hire more management staff.

The hearing lasted approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes. You can download audio files of the hearing here in case you missed it or would like to listen to it on your iPod, Rio or other mobile audio player.

All the files are in MP3 format, 56 Kbps (Mono), to keep file size at a minimum without sacrificing too much quality. The files were recorded directly off the Senate website feed at http://indian.senate.gov.

Introduction - 5:04 - 2.03MB
Introductory Statements

Panel I - 14:55 - 5.75MB
Testimony by Panel I

Q&A - 34:24 - 13.7MB
Q&A with Panel I

Panel II - 32:46 - 13.1MB
Testimony by Panel II

Q&A - 17:49 - 7.14MB
Q&A with Panel II

Relevant Links:
National Indian Education Association - http://www.niea.org
Office of Indian Education Programs, BIA - http://www.oiep.bia.edu

Related Stories:
Senate bill restores funding for Indian programs (06/09)
Tribes struggle to find funds to fix crumbling schools (06/09)
Bill calls for tribal consultation on BIA budget (05/31)
Indian educator: More classwork, less culture (05/27)
BIA publishes final No Child Left Behind regulations (04/28)
School construction fared poorly on White House test (02/14)
Indian education funds reduced by Bush budget (2/10)
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Tribal leaders denounce BIA budget plans as reckless (03/24)
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Tom Daschle: Leave no Indian child behind (2/25)
Senate panel shares criticism of Bush budget (02/12)
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