Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Native American reservation schools: A case study in big government failure

Posted by sanityinjection on November 28, 2015

I commend to your attention this excellent article from Politico.com about the long history of failure of the schools for Native American children run by the federal government through the Bureau of Indian Education, a division of the Interior Department.

As the article notes, decisions about these schools are being made by federal bureaucrats, often with little or no educational expertise. Per-pupil expenditures are high but results are poor compared to schools in other underprivileged areas. Skewed priorities have led to schools with “smart boards” and computers but not enough electricity to run them in crumbling buildings, and teacher salaries that are high but a lack of the infrastructure to attract them.

The only real success mentioned in the article was achieved by a private non-profit organization. Ironically, the article notes that there is significant opposition within Native American communities to reforms that would increase local control of these schools; reading between the lines, that’s about fearing the loss of jobs currently being held by members of those communities. The feds seem to fear that Native American communities might choose to spend less money on their schools given the chance – but how could they possibly make them any worse than they already are?

The question must be asked: If increased federal control has proven to be deleterious to Native American reservation schools, under what theory would federal control be good for any other schools? Granted, the Department of Education is not actually in charge of administrating schools – just making endless rules and regulations for them.

It’s worth noting that the problem has continued despite sincere good intentions under several administrations to try to improve things. The problem with big government is not that it doesn’t mean well; the problem is that by its very nature it is fundamentally structurally vulnerable to problems like corruption, waste, and misprioritization. State and local governments are not without their problems, but simply by virtue of their smaller size there is a limit to how messed up they can get.

Meanwhile, the Senate committee that is supposed to have oversight of Indian affairs spends its time haranguing the Washington Redskins football team  about changing its name, as if that were the way to improve the quality of life for Native Americans.

Social justice advocates like to point out the unfairness of inequities in public policy outcomes for minority groups – mostly urban ones. Surely no group has more of a moral claim to have such inequities resolved than Native Americans, although their reservations don’t generally fall within urban, Democrat-skewed voting districts.

Obviously a problem that has been many decades in the making will not be resolved by any kind of quick fix. But a good first step would be to take the existing funds being allocated to the Bureau of Indian Education and use them to hire private management organizations to overhaul these failed schools, rather than keeping control in the hands of the same bureaucrats that have been mismanaging them all along.

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2 Responses to “Native American reservation schools: A case study in big government failure”

  1. Private A-holes will likely rip off the government and we will still have failed schools. My recommendation is better teacher training and LOCAL control over what and how students are being taught! Learn more about my perspectives via my blog. Visit follow @ http://www.kennethfetterman.wordpress.com
    Want to learn more about reforming schools and training practitioners to improve student learning? Sample/purchase professional materials @ http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/kennethfetterman
    Best wishes, Ken

  2. […] kennethfetterman on Native American reservation schools: A case study in big government failure […]

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