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Congressman Tom O´Halleran

Representing the 1st District of Arizona

O'Halleran Urges Congressional Leaders to Fund Tribal School Repairs

February 26, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Congressman Tom O'Halleran (AZ-01) sent a letter urging Reps. Ken Calvert and Betty McCollum, leaders on the House Committee on Appropriations, to strongly consider full funding for the Bureau of Indian Education's New School Replacement Program.

"We have an obligation to provide a quality education and a safe school environment for students across Indian Country. With a backlog of nearly 80 tribal schools in dire need of repair or replacement, it is long past time for Congress to take action," said Rep. O'Halleran. "I am ready to work with my colleagues to ensure the Bureau of Indian Education's New School Replacement Program is funded and the backlog is reduced over the coming years."

"I believe that for the United States to fulfill our responsibility to Native American tribes and nations, we must ensure that children living in these communities have access to healthy, safe, and comfortable schools," O'Halleran wrote to his Republican and Democratic colleagues. "I believe that a student's zip code should not play a role in their educational opportunities, which is exactly why we must ensure that the Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools in poor condition are replaced in a timely manner."

In 2016, following the construction of 10 schools chosen for replacement in 2004, the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) selected 10 more eligible facilities for repair or replacement. Schools determined to be in poor condition are 50 years old or older and 75 percent or more of students are being taught out of portable facilities.

Read the full letter here or below.

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Dear Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member McCollum:

I write to encourage you to fully fund the Bureau of Indian Education’s New School Replacement Program. Additionally, I support your efforts to direct the Bureau of Indian Education and the Department of the Interior to work with tribal nations to develop innovative approaches to replace those schools not currently on the Bureau’s priority list for replacement in a timely fashion.

As you may know, the schools on the program’s priority list are in the direst need of repair and, in some cases, are considered beyond repair. Currently, 10 schools have been promised new construction, but they have not yet received it. Addressing the needs of these schools is only a start as there are an additional 68 schools eligible for replacement. Not only do we have a moral obligation to address the condition of these schools, we have treaty and trust obligations to do so.

As you are aware, the United States has an obligation to meet the basic needs of Native American communities. These commitments explicitly provide for education. I believe that for the United States to fulfill our responsibility to Native American tribes and nations, we must ensure that children living in these communities have access to healthy, safe, and comfortable schools. When reviewing your requests, I hope that you will take this trust and treaty responsibility seriously.

While I am aware that you must balance a wide array of funding needs and must make difficult choices due to budget constraints, I hope you will consider this request with extra care. A quality education will allow these students to have a strong future. I believe that a student’s zip code should not play a role in their educational opportunities, which is exactly why we must ensure that the Bureau of Indian Education-funded schools in poor condition are replaced in a timely manner. 

Sincerely,

Tom O’Halleran

Member of Congress

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