Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)

The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) is charged with providing quality education opportunities from early childhood through adulthood in accordance with the federal trust responsibility. The BIE funds and operates a total of 183 elementary, secondary, residential, and peripheral dormitories across 23 states. Currently housed within the Department of Interior, the BIE was originallyin the Bureau of Indian Affairs created by the Department of War in the mid-19th century. Since that time, the BIE has overseen the nation’s legacy of Indian boarding schools and federally-funded schools, which now serve approximately 8% of American Indian students.

To learn more about the BIE, please visit their website at www.bie.edu.

NIEA Advocacy

NIEA works with the BIE to ensure the agency fulfills the federal trust relationship and supports the approximately 48,000 American Indian students in Bureau-funded schools across the country.

Reforming the BIE

Since 2014, the BIE has been undergoing changes to streamline federal processes and education services. Following the formation of an American Indian Education Study Group to assess federal failures within Bureau-funded schools, the BIE released a “Blueprint for Reform” to realign Bureau resources to build tribal capacity in schools.

As part of this process, the BIE has developed a new strategic plan to govern the Bureau’s mission, structure, and services for Native students. Prior to the official release on August 23, 2018, BIE officials requested public comment and engaged in tribal consultation sessions on the final Strategic Direction for implementation of education services over the next five years. Over the past year, the BIE has made strides in implementing key portions of the direction, providing reports available to the public at national convenings and on their website. As this work continues, strategic planning and reform within the BIE will have significant implications for Native students and sovereignty.

Every Student Succeeds Act

Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) is required to engage in negotiated rulemaking to update regulations for standards, assessments, and accountability systems within Bureau-funded schools. The Negotiated Rulemaking Committee (Committee) will negotiate education systems for Bureau-funded schools that measure student achievement and school success. Negotiators will also consider rules to streamline the process tribes to obtain a waiver and technical assistance if they decide to develop unique systems that fulfill the needs of tribal students. Like states, the BIE will utilize this negotiated rulemaking to inform the ESSA state plan for Bureau-funded schools, which will undergo tribal consultation before implementation in the 2019-2020 school year.

Through this process, tribes and tribal communities have a critical opportunity to shape the education of Native students across the country. These systems have the potential to provide pathways and models for tribes throughout the United States to build capacity and exercise sovereignty in Native education systems.

NIEA has developed a series of issue briefs to inform tribal representatives and advocates on statutory flexibilities and considerations under ESSA. In addition, NIEA hosted a webinar and tribal caucus to facilitate tribal consultation, engagement, and advocacy within the rulemaking process.

High Risk List

In February 2017, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) added Indian education to the list of high risk federal programs, prompting congressional review of challenges to Native education within the BIE. Since the GAO published the high risk list, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has hosted hearings to track progress on key issues raised within the report, including federal oversight of Bureau functions, condition of school facilities, and vacancies within the educator and administrative workforce.

Construction and Repairs

Tribal leaders and Native education advocates have long decried the condition of school facilities within the BIE system. Through our work with tribal leaders, congressional appropriators, and education partners, NIEA calls for funding the critical construction and repairs needed to make BIE schools safe and conducive to student success are gaining momentum. In our 2017 report , NIEA details key health and safety issues that students, educators, and administrators face in BIE schools.

Teacher Shortages

Teacher vacancies across the United States have resulted in teacher shortages for schools located states with high Native populations, including North Dakota, where the governor declared “critical shortage area” in 2016. A federal hiring freeze in 2017 exacerbated the issue within Bureau-funded schools.

NIEA has established two programs to combat teacher shortages in BIE schools. Launched in February 2017, our Educator Initiative brought together tribal leaders and educators to advocate for policies and programs that expand recruitment, training and retention of teachers in high Native population areas. Additionally, NIEA partnered with The New Teacher Project (TNTP) to launch a teacher recruitment website to fill vacancies in schools with high Native student populations.