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Bush budget slashes Indian education by $79M
Tuesday, March 23, 2004

New Bureau of Indian Affairs head Dave Anderson is making education a top priority but his agency's latest budget doesn't necessarily reflect his concern.

While trust reform will see a major increase in 2005, education and school-related programs for American Indian and Alaska Native students of all ages are being cut. A number of areas, from student transportation costs to tribal college grants to school construction, will take hits next year.

"We're pretty much flat-lined," Ed Parisian, the director of BIA's Office of Indian Education Programs, said on Sunday at the National Indian Education Association's legislative summit.

The cuts aren't quickly identified because they are spread throughout different line items. But based on a review of the BIA's budget book, education programs are due for an overall slash of nearly $79 million.

Small increases to some programs in the education arena reduce the impact, but only by about $7 million.

According to the budget book, the following programs will take a hit:
  • Scholarships -- Due to a $547,000 cut, tribes who hand out the awards will do so for 150 fewer Indian students attending post-secondary institutions.
  • Early Childhood Development - Despite praise from Secretary Gale Norton about initiatives like the Family and Child Education (FACE) program, this item will be cut by $33,000. This figure includes a cut to the Therapeutic Residential Model (TRM) program to help at-risk Indian students, a particular concern for Anderson.
  • Student Transportation - Even though Indian students are traveling more miles to get to school, this item will see a $58,000 cut.
  • Administrative Cost Grants / Administrative Cost Grants Fund -- Tribes and Indian organizations that want to contract BIA schools can continue do so, but with $3.2 million less. The reduction means one less school will be eligible for a new contract next year.
  • School Statistics -- Although the No Child Left Behind Act calls for maintenance of performance-related data, this item is seeing a $2,000 cut.
  • Tribal Colleges and Universities -- Due to a $5.2 million cut, the United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota and Crownpoint Institute of Technology in New Mexico will receive no funds.

    The largest cut comes to the line items for replacement school construction and for facilities improvement and repair. The proposed $69 million cut -- $65 million, when reduced by related offsets -- is controversial because tribal leaders see it as proof of the funding of trust reform at the expense of other programs.

    NIEA president Cindy LaMarr recently told a Senate committee that $65 million is the amount of the increase being sought for historical accounting at the Office of Special Trustee.

    Parisian, however, said the cut was based on direction from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Officials there believe too much time and money is being spent on planning and design of new schools instead of actual construction, he told NIEA attendees.

    "We've only built four schools in the past couple of years and there are 25 in the design process," Parisian said. "We need to move it up."

    "OMB is all about results," he added. He said one school project has been in the planning stages for six years because a tribe hasn't made final decisions.

    But Leonard Chee, a Navajo educator and delegate to the Navajo Nation council, said tribes are not to blame. He said BIA officials have yet to move on a replacement project in his community for more than a year despite clear direction from Navajo leaders. Seven of the 14 schools on the BIA's construction list are located on the Navajo Nation.

    Cuts to education and other programs came under fire at a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing last month. Members on both political parties said they were disappointed with President Bush's funding request and pledged to improve it.

    "We have a lot to say about what is increased and what is decreased," said Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-Colo.), the chairman of the committee.

    Relevant Links:
    National Indian Education Association -
    Office of Indian Education Programs, BIA -
    Indian School Report Cards, BIA -

    Related Stories:
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