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Rep. Stansbury seeks more funding for "decrepit" tribal schools

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The Bureau of Indian Education serves Native students from the 574 federally recognized tribes at 183 elementary and secondary schools and dormitories.

Schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education serve over 40,000 Native students across the country. But a recent congressional hearing heard that some, including in New Mexico, are dilapidated and unsafe.

During a June 28 meeting of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples, U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury, (D-N.M.) advocated for Congress to better fund Indigenous schools.

"This is about the history of how the United States historically made commitments to tribal communities that we would provide sufficient funding to educate Native children and about ensuring that we make good on those promises," said Stansbury.

She asked to increase school construction funding in next year's federal budget in a bipartisan letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee. It was signed by 25 of her colleagues, and is currently being reviewed.

"We need to be making sure that we're not only providing the administrative support for the schools," said Stansbury, "but that they have adequate funding to replace decrepit buildings and maintenance issues, that they're able to hire these teachers that are from these communities."

In Stansbury’s own district, the To’Hajiilee school on the Navajo Nation is in a state of disrepair.

"It was built in a floodplain as a boarding school, it is no longer adequate." Stansbury said the school has closed, and that local internet service is not good enough for children to learn at home.

In written testimony to the subcommittee, Bureau of Indian Education Director Tony Dearman said that the total cost of replacing BIE schools in poor condition would be roughly $4.5 billion.

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