Calling American Indian education a national travesty, the Obama administration is moving to get more tribes to run federally controlled schools that for decades have produced the nation’s most poorly educated students.
Interior Secretary Secretary Sally Jewell said she will spotlight the issue Thursday when she opens the first White House Tribal Youth Gathering, an attempt to improve the lives of American Indian children across the country.
The worst-performing schools in the nation are the schools run by the Bureau of Indian Education. That’s just a travesty and something that’s not acceptable.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell
Administration officials say that tribal youths have the lowest graduation rates in the country and that only about a third of the federally run schools are meeting education goals set by Congress.
In addition, more than one-third of all American Indian children live in poverty, according to a recent White House report.
Jewell said the federal school system, which is part of the Interior Department, is “broken” and not serving the 45,000 students who are enrolled in more than 180 elementary and secondary schools in 23 different states.
The administration first began enticing tribes to run the bureau’s schools last year when it gave grants to a handful of tribes to experiment. Jewell said the administration will announce seven more grants for different tribes on Thursday.
First lady Michelle Obama will be the keynote speaker at the gathering at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.
More than 875 youths, representing 230 tribes in 42 states, are expected to attend, said White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz.