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Bush budget seeks cuts to Indian education programs

Indian education will again be seeing a hit in fiscal year 2006 despite President Bush's pledge to leave no child behind.

Programs at the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Education are at risk for cuts or outright elimination. The budget proposal affect everything from school construction and repair to Johnson O'Malley to support for disabled American Indian and Alaska Native students.

"If the FY'06 budget is enacted, this will be the first cut in education in a decade and will completely disregard Native students' critical needs," said Lillian Sparks, the executive director of the National Indian Education Association.

At the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET) meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, Sparks outlined some of the changes being sought in the coming year. Key among them is an $89.5 million reduction to the construction of new BIA schools, a priority of the Bush administration during the first term of the president.

"The continued deterioration of facilities on Indian land is not only a federal responsibility but has become a tribal liability," Sparks said on Tuesday.

The BIA budget also slashes Johnson O'Malley grants, which provide school supplies, tutoring and other services to Native students at public schools, by 50 percent. If the budget is enacted as proposal, funding would drop to $8.8 million.

Other programs will be eliminated altogether. They include the $3 million Therapeutic Residential Model that targets at-risk Native youth, a $326,000 study of the Family and Child Education (FACE) program that earned praise from Interior Secretary Gale Norton, the $486,000 administrative costs grant fund for tribes that want to contract BIA schools, the $673,000 school statistics database and a $1.3 million reduction due to the BIA reorganization.

A similar picture emerges over at the Education Department, which would see a cut of a half a billion dollars for a total of $56 billion. The administration is seeking to eliminate 48 programs, saying they aren't performing well or that they duplicate other state and federal efforts, the same rationale offered for the BIA programs.

The Office of Indian Education would receive a total of $119.9 million, the same amount in the current budget and slightly lower than the amount from 2004. Of this amount, $96.3 million is provided in grants to public and BIA schools.

Native Hawaiian education would be cut for the second year in a row to $32.6 million. Alaska Native education is also being reduced to $31.2 million, down from $34.2 million.

Impact Aid, which provides funding for public schools located on or near trust lands, is being funded at $1.24 billion, a decrease of $3 million from the current level.

Funding for tribal colleges would stay the same, at $7.4 million within the Education Department. At the BIA, nearly $10 million was cut for the United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota and Crownpoint Institute of Technology in New Mexico.

Indian educators will be meeting in Washington, D.C., next week to discuss the budget and other issues during NIEA's annual legislative summit. New Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has been invited to speak to the conference.

Budget Documents:
Bureau of Indian Affairs | Department of Education

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