Education | National

Aging BIA school on Navajo Nation awaits replacement funds

The sign to the Little Singer Community School in Winslow, Arizona. Photo from Monolithic

A Bureau of Indian Affairs school on the Navajo Nation is one of dozens in need of replacement funds.

The Little Singer Community School in Arizona was built in the 1970s and suffers from asbestos, radon, mice and mold problems, the Associated Press reports. The newest structure is nearly 20 years old, the AP said.

Little School is an example of a facility “that you or I would not feel good sending our kids to, and I don’t feel good sending Indian kids there, either," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said on a recent visit to the reservation, the AP reported.

Yet there is little funding to build new schools. The Bureau of Indian Education used to maintain a school construction priority list that determined which projects were included in the budget request submitted to Congress.

The list, however, hasn't been updated since 2004. Little Singer has languished at number 13 ever since.

The American Indian Education Study Group has called for a resumption of the funds. According to the Bronner report, the BIE needs $1.3 billion to replace or fix problems at the 68 highest-risk schools and another $967M is needed to reduce the existing repair and maintenance backlog.

“We need to get the kids out of the environment,” Etta Shirley, the principal at Little Singer, told the AP. “That’s what’s really driving this. I lose sleep over it, just thinking about it.”

Get the Story:
Indian schools face decayed buildings, poverty (AP 10/20)
Indian schools face decayed buildings, poverty (AP 10/20)
What to know about federally run Indian schools (AP 10/20)

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