WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, introduced S. 2580, the Reforming American Indian Standards of Education Act (RAISE Act).
The RAISE Act would modernize and streamline the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) into an independent agency under the Department of the Interior. Having a separate agency will create better accountability and transparency at the BIE, and enable it to better meet the needs of Indian students across the country.
This independent agency would bring together a panel of qualified experts, including a presidential appointed director, to oversee curriculum and facilities management.
“The structure at the Bureau of Indian Education is broken,” said Chairman Barrasso. “My legislation will ensure that the administrators, teachers, and students from tribal communities are being listened to and that their needs are being met. It is an important first step for better transparency and accountability for schools across Indian Country.”
The BIE school system includes 183 elementary and secondary schools and dormitories, serving approximately 48,000 students. Currently, the BIE directly operates 57 schools and dormitories, and Indian tribes operate the remaining 126 schools and dormitories through grants or contracts with the BIE. The BIE is currently a division within the U.S. Department of the Interior, under the assistant secretary for Indian Affairs.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued numerous reports detailing systematic problems with the organization of the BIE, as well as the crumbling infrastructure at the schools themselves.
On May 13, 2015, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs held an oversight hearing on the “Bureau of Indian Education: Examining Organizational Challenges in Transforming Educational Opportunities for Indian Children.”
At the hearing, the GAO testified that “fragmented administrative services and a lack of clear roles for BIE and the Indian Affairs Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Management contributed to delays in schools acquiring needed materials, such as textbooks.”