Government-Run Education on Indian Reservations is a Disaster

Children who attend schools overseen by the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) go without hot water for months, sit in moldy classrooms, and have cafeterias with “electrocution hazards,” all at a cost of roughly $20,000 per pupil.

Melissa Emrey-Arras, the director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security at the Government Accountability Office (GAO), testified on Wednesday before the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, detailing the alarming conditions of schools on Indian reservations.

Although the BIE is only responsible for 41,000 students in 185 schools on Indian reservations throughout the country, the agency has been unable to effectively staff, manage, or repair schools. The GAO warned that poor management is harming the education of students on Indian Reservations, who suffer from low test scores and graduation rates.

In one example, Indian Affairs spent $3.5 million on new roofs for one school in 2010, which began leaking shortly after their installation.

“The new roofs already leak, causing mold and ceiling damage, and Indian Affairs has not yet adequately addressed the problems, resulting in continued leaks and damage to the structure,” Emrey-Arras said.