Contact: Jared King
For Immediate Release
Department of Diné Education advocates to fully fund school construction on the Navajo Nation before a Congressional roundtable
WASHINGTON—Dr. Timothy Benally, Assistant Superintendent of Schools of the Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education (DODE), requested the completion of construction and funding priorities for the infrastructure backlog of school construction on the Bureau of Indian Education’s (BIE) Replacement School Construction List before a roundtable last week hosted by the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA).
Dr. Benally stated, “Expectations for students continue to rise, while Navajo students remain in old facilities with little resources. Facilities must be upgraded and given more resources”.
On July 12, SCIA held an education roundtable discussion focused on the possibility of funding the BIE’s school construction backlog from revenue generated from the Public Lands Infrastructure Fund. The roundtable was led by Chairman John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Vice Chairman Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), and Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.). Officials from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and the BIE were also in attendance.
Dr. Benally also stated that the BIE is held accountable for their failure to provide quality facilities to Indian Country as they had promised 14 years ago when the Replacement School Construction List was created. Out of the ten schools that the BIE identified on the list, seven belong to the Navajo Nation.
“Additionally, when facilities are built in Navajo, the communities should be consulted. They know the region and the needs of the school. There needs to be increased oversight at the local level to ensure the community’s needs are being fully met.” stated Dr. Benally.
Dr. Benally and the other tribal leaders showed favor towards changing the current infrastructure program to allow the tribes to have more control of the construction funds to complete the school construction. Navajo Nation leadership will continue discussions on this matter and engage with both Congressional and federal agency leaders.
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