Obama budget includes $1 billion for Native American education

President Obama’s budget request includes $1 billion for American Indian schools next year, with millions of those dollars dedicated to restoring crumbling buildings and connecting classrooms via broadband Internet.

Administrative officials said the President was inspired to increase funds to better serve this population partially as a result of last years visit to the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. He and the First Lady traveled to North Dakota and met with young people who shared how drugs, violence and poverty impacted their lives.

The federal government reports that around one-third of Bureau of Indian Education schools were in poor condition last year. This has forced students to learn in classrooms that fail to meet health and safety standards.

The BIE oversees 23 states and serves over 40,000 children in nearly 200 schools.

In addition to renovations, Obama’s budget includes funds to expand broadband access at BIE schools, expand scholarships for post-secondary education and help tribes deliver their own education programs.

Young people in Indian Country are some of the most at-risk in the United States. Many grow up in communities suffering from poverty, unemployment and substance abuse. More than one-fifth of Native Americans over 25 years of age never earned a high school diploma. Of those who attend college, only 39 percent earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.

Obama is scheduled to unveil his full proposal this week.

I can only imagine the impact $1 billion would make on the Native American community, one that is in such dire need of resources. Students do not deserve to have roofs caving in on them — they deserve to attend school and get an education in dramatically better conditions. I think Obama’s proposed funds could support some big changes in Native American education — changes that would lead to improved high school graduation rates and hopefully end the Native youth crisis.

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