Posted by on Jan 23, 2018 in Featured

Government Shutdown and Impacts on Native Education

Government Shutdown and Impacts on Native Education

Federal Government Shuts Down as Congress and the President Cannot Reach Agreement

At 11:59 last night, January 18th, the federal government officially closed, as Congress and the President could not reach agreement on a short-term extension of funding to keep the Department of Education, Department of Interior and other non-essential federal government personnel on the job. The President and Senate Democrats could not agree specifically on immigration and the status of children who came to the United States without legal documentation-popularly known as the Dreamers. The shut-down includes all government agencies, but does not stop some employees and government functions such as national security and many Bureau of Indian Education employees from continuing work. The length of the shutdown is expected to be brief, likely lasting for less than a week, but that short-duration is not certain. NIEA’s assessment of the impact of the shutdown is below. We will also keep you updated via Broadcast as events unfold over the coming days.

The Implications for Native Students of a Short Shutdown of Less Than a Week

If the shutdown is brief-less than a week-the implications for Native students are unlikely to be severe. Department of Education employees will, in most cases, be furloughed-kept home and without pay-until the shutdown is resolved. Title VI grant funding, however, will continue, and most functions of the Department of Education are not so time-sensitive that a week or less shutdown will result in many changes that Native educators and students will see in public schools.

Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools will also not be impacted severely if the shutdown is less than a week. This is the case because most of the 3,400 employees of the BIE are funded in advance of the school year. Teachers, principals, and other personnel necessary for the operations of BIE schools have been funded through June 30, 2018. As a result, the staff who will not be working during the shutdown are mostly not ones who work in day-to-day school operations. BIE schools will continue to operate without major changes if the shutdown lasts less than a week.

The Department of Education: Significant Implications of a Shutdown of More than a Week

If the shutdown lasts more than a week, the implications for the Impact Aid program, and possibly Title VI and Title I funding could be severe. The Impact Aid program depends on federal funding from this fiscal year to keep funding flowing to the many schools that receive funding for Native students. In 2013, Impact Aid schools were forced to take out loans from local banks to stay open, in some cases. The repercussions for Impact Aid schools was severe and it took years in some cases to recover. Other programs such as Title VI could also be placed at risk, as grant applications could be delayed if a federal shutdown of more than one week occurs.

The Department of Interior: Significant Implications of a Shutdown of More than a Week

Within the Department of Interior, a shutdown of more than one week could result in challenges first and foremost to the BIE, but also to other functions of the Department of Interior that could cause significant harm to Native communities. BIE schools would face challenges in continuing overall administrative functions in a shutdown of more than a week. Further, the Department of Interior as a whole will likely face significant operational challenges to functions like transportation and tribal support if the shutdown continues.

The Broader Implications of a Shutdown for Native Students

The shutdown may have significant implications for programs that fund Native students over the next two to three years that are hard to predict, but the short-term-next year to 18 months-of a shutdown of less than a week is not likely to be severe. Congressional leaders in both parties support Title VI, Impact Aid and funding for the BIE and level funding for the remainder of this year-Fiscal Year 2018-and next year-Fiscal Year 2019-continues to be the most likely outcome. NIEA has been engaging with Congressional staff in support of Native students and will continue to do so over the coming week. We have and will also be engaging with the Administration to make clear our concerns when helpful, and to stand up for Native students by demanding better leadership, on each and every time doing so is necessary or beneficial.

To be clear, nothing is certain and NIEA is deeply concerned: it is possible, though not likely, that the shutdown could result in funding cuts over the coming year and, more likely, the political context for the next two years will change as a result of this shutdown. BIE employees and Native educators-like all of us who are part of the NIEA family-are tired of the efforts to cut funding and want the federal government to fulfill the Federal Trust Responsibility for Native students.

The medium to long-term implications of the shutdown will depend on the results of the 2018 Congressional elections. For information about Native Vote, please go here: http://www.nativevote.org/

About The National Indian Education Association (NIEA)

NIEA is the Nation’s most inclusive advocacy organization advancing comprehensive culture-based educational opportunities for American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. Formed by Native educators in 1969 to encourage a national discourse on education, NIEA adheres to the organization’s founding principles- to convene educators to explore ways to improve schools and the educational systems serving Native children; to promote the maintenance and continued development of language and cultural programs; and to develop and implement strategies for influencing local, state, and federal policy and decision makers. For more information visit www.niea.org.