Udall requested the hearing several months ago as part of his proposal to develop a “Marshall Plan” to eliminate the backlog in construction and maintenance of facilities that impact all parts of life in Indian Country – and ensure the safety of all Native children attending BIA schools. Currently, many schools within the BIA system have serious structural deficiencies, are not handicapped accessible, and are in violation of building and fire codes.
The deficiencies in BIA schools were further underscored in a recent series by KRQE Albuquerque’s veteran investigative reporter, Larry Barker, which found that BIA has done nothing to remedy the situation despite repeated requests by officials from schools throughout the system.
“If these problems were occurring anywhere else in America, the public outcry would be enormous,” Udall said. “The unfortunate reality is that the safety concerns facing children in our country’s Native communities are all too often ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ It’s my hope that this hearing will be the first step in remedying this unacceptable situation.”
In addition to the hearing, earlier this year Udall criticized BIA plans to cut more than $8 million in funding for future school construction and maintenance. In an effort to restore and increase funding for school construction, Udall and several of his colleagues sent a letter to the Budget Committee requesting that the Bureau of Indian Affairs Education Construction account be raised from the president’s request of $53 million to the 2003 funding level of $293 million, the highest amount in the last seven years. Last year, Udall joined several of his Senate colleagues in sending a letter to President Obama with recommendations on funding levels for tribal infrastructure projects to be included in his recovery package. This included a recommended $658 million for construction at tribal schools and colleges.
Our hats are off to U.S. Senator Tom Udall and KRQE Albuquerque’s veteran investigative reporter, Larry Barker.
haskellnews commentary 05/05/2010