Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)

The Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) is charged with providing quality education opportunities from early childhood through adulthoodin 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 originally 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 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.


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, BIE is developing a new strategic plan to govern the Bureau’s mission, structure, and services for Native students. Following the release of a draft plan in fall 2017, BIE officials requested public comment and announced upcoming tribal consultation sessions scheduled for 2018. Strategic planning and reform within the BIE will have significant implications for Native students and sovereignty.


Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the BIE is required to develop a state plan to implement the law in Bureau-funded schools. Under this plan, the BIE must update regulations for standards, assessments, and accountability systems to meet current federal requirements. In preparation for this process, the BIE has put out a call to request nominations for a “Negotiated Rulemaking Committee.” This committee will consider regulations under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which will be implemented in the 2018-2019 school year.


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.


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.


Recent 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 Campaign for Teachers of Native Students has broughttogether 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 has partnered with The New Teacher Project (TNTP) to launch a teacher recruitment website to fill vacancies in schools with high Native student populations.