NIEA Policy Agenda


Sequestration: Preparing for Devastating Cuts to Native Education   


With the failure of Congress to come to an agreement on a balanced approach to reduce the federal deficit, sequestration and its related budget cuts were put into effect on March 1, 2013. For more background information on sequestration and the Budget Control Act, please see the March 2013 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Sequestration Report.


Unlike the majority population, schools serving Native students will immediately feel the impact of these budget cuts. Not only will Native education programs in public schools be drastically cut, but some of the schools operated by the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) will face potential closures.


In keeping with the President's statement that the most vulnerable populations should be least impacted, NIEA has been advocating to Congress and the Administration to replace the automatic, across-the-board cuts with a balanced deficit reduction plan. Further, NIEA has consistently advocated that the federal government should meet its trust responsibility to Native communities and fully fund Native education and its related programs as outlined in the U.S. Constitution and under numerous treaties. Sequestration must be replaced with a reduction plan reliant on more than cutting domestic spending that disproportionately affects the United States' most vulnerable populations.


The White House recently released a State-by-State Index to provide information on the impact of sequestration on your state.


Immediate Cuts: Impact Aid

Native communities are especially concerned about the immediate cuts to Impact Aid, the federal funding provided to districts to replace property tax revenue lost because of the presence of either federal property, or for the increased enrollment associated with children living on Indian reservations and other federally-connected children. Nearly the entire top 25 districts nationally that are most reliant on federal funding are on or near Indian reservations - this is largely due to the funding received through Impact Aid.  


Unlike other Title programs, Impact Aid is the only program that is not forward-funded, meaning the funding cuts will take effect in the middle of the current 2012-2013 school year. The over $60 million in cuts to Impact Aid will directly affect the operation of 710 schools and the services provided to approximately 115,000 Native students. Impact Aid cuts will force schools to make wrenching, mid-year adjustments that will affect basic school operations, such as the ability to pay teacher salaries.


For example, just outside the Navajo Nation reservation in New Mexico, the Gallup McKinley County Public School System will lose about $2 million of its funds from Impact Aid, affecting 6,700 students who live on Indian lands. Impact Aid funds make up 35 percent of that district's total budget. Other examples of cuts faced by school districts serving sizeable Native populations include:

  • Alaska State Education Department: $2.2 million
  • Lower Kuskokwim School District (Alaska): $1.4 million
  • Window Rock Unified School District (Arizona): $1 million
  • Red Lake School District (Minnesota): $900,000
  • Las Cruces School District (New Mexico): $2 million
  • Bennett County School District (South Dakota) : $1.2 million

Additional Critical Funding Cuts

Title I Funding: Title I funding will face roughly $725 million in reductions, affecting 1.2 million students and risking the jobs of 10,000 teachers. Title I funds educational opportunities for the neediest students and their families with grants currently serving nearly 23 million students in high-poverty schools. With roughly 33 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native students living in poverty as compared to only 12 percent of their white peers, the cuts to these critical grants will disproportionally affect the schools serving our students.  


Title VII Funding: Title VII funds are provided to fulfill the federal government's trust relationship with and responsibility to Native people for the education of Native children. These important grants ensure local educational agencies, Indian tribes and organizations, and postsecondary institutions have funds to better serve Native children. These much needed funds ensure that programs that serve Native children are of the highest quality and provide for not only the basic elementary and secondary educational needs, but also the unique educational and culturally related academic needs of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian students. Under the Sequester, roughly $8 million will be cut from Indian Education Grants under Title VII of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.


Head Start: Each year Head Start offers nearly one million of the United States' most vulnerable children access to quality early education and support services from birth through age five. Head Start has continually played an instrumental role in Native education. This vital program combines education, health, and family services to model traditional Native education, which accounts for its success rate. However, the $85 billion in automatic cuts to federal services will take a $406 million chunk out of the federal Head Start preschool program, with Indian Head Start taking a nearly $12 million cut. These drastic cuts will devastate the program for our Native children. 


Bureau of Indian Education: At NIEA's LegSummit 2013, BIE officials told our membership there will be two levels of funding impacts on the BIE due to the nature of its funding - immediate impacts and delayed impacts - based on whether programs are forward-funded. The agency has already implemented a hiring freeze, reduced travel, and eliminated conferences and trainings. Further, all non-essential contracts have been canceled. Such actions will have a critical impact on the agency's ability to fulfill the trust responsibility to Native education.

  • Immediate Impacts: Facilities and maintenance, Johnson O'Malley contracts and programs, scholarships for adult education, education program management, school operations, and furloughs for staff and teachers.
  • Delayed Impacts: Indian School Equalization Program (ISEP) formula funds and adjustments, school transportation, early childhood programs, tribal grant support costs, and most tribal colleges and universities.


Snap Shot: Funding Cuts for Native Education Programs (in $millions) 





FY 2013 Pres. Budget


Funding after Sequester

5% Cut Amount

Child Care & Development Block Grants (Tribes)





Indian Student Education





Special Education-Grants to States

(Indian Set-Aside)





Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants (Indian Set-Aside)





College & Career-Ready Students (Title I, LEA Grants, Indian Set-Aside)





Homeless Children/Youth Education (Indian Set-Aside)





Special Education Infants/Families (Indian Set-Aside)





Career/Technical Education (Indian Set-Aside)





Strengthening Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)





Strengthening Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions





Tribally Controlled Postsecondary & Technical Institutions






Higher Education and Tribal Colleges and Universities

Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, Pell Grants, which are provided to low-income undergraduate and graduate students, are exempt from the devastating sequestration cuts. This is good news for tribal colleges and universities. Yet as the American Indian Higher Education Consortium has reported, some TCUs face devastating impacts from sequestration:


Sitting Bull College faces a cut of nearly $1 million. In addition to shifting health insurance costs to employees, freezing salaries, and eliminating planned cost-of-living raises, Sitting Bull College will be forced to close for summer recess, which means the elimination of programs for high school and middle school students. This also means the potential cancellation of the college's annual Lakota Language Summit at a time when Native languages are threatened with extinction. 


Fort Peck Community College, on the remote Fort Peck reservation in northeastern Montana, will be forced to close its community-based Wellness Centers in both Poplar and Wolf Point, eliminate its GED and Adult Basic Education program, and end extracurricular activities for students. These cuts could trigger a devastating domino effect since American Indians have higher high school dropout rates and higher mortality rates from diabetes, accidents, liver disease, suicide, homicide, and chronic liver disease compared with other racial and ethnic groups.


Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, Montana, will lose $225,000 from its basic institutional operations budget, which translates to the loss of two faculty positions and the elimination of its summer session. Students who need to meet requirements to complete their associate degree programs will now require more time to graduate, increasing costs to students, families, and the federal government. The college is also considering a four-day summer workweek, essentially cutting staff incomes by 20 percent. For the hard working staff at the college--some of which are single parents and many support extended families--a cut of this magnitude goes far beyond eliminating luxuries. It means the elimination of food, gas, and daycare.


College of Menominee Nation in Keshena, Wisconsin, faces a cut of $1.1 million, which equates to the loss of funding for 35 employees, the projected loss of 100 or more American Indian students, and the elimination of some courses of study--crippling the economic growth potential of this small, rural community.


Ilisagvik College in Barrow, Alaska - one of the most remote and isolated parts of the country - would experience a cut of $355,000. This will directly impact the college's Student Success Center activities, including tutors, learning center staff, and student support services. The college will also be analyzing their distance education costs, teacher education programs, and library services, which are in all eight communities across Alaska's North Slope. Ilisagvik's thriving Extension program and summer camp bridging programs for Native Alaskan youth are also threatened by these cuts. "It would be a real disaster if we were to lose these funds," said Pearl Brower, Ilisagvik College president.


Moving Forward

NIEA will continue to monitor the Sequestration cuts and will work with Native education partners to analyze its devastating impacts on Native education. NIEA is continuously working to educate Congress and the Administration on the federal government's trust responsibility to fully fund Native education programs and reverse the devastating cuts to America's most vulnerable populations.


Members can contact Clint Bowers at or at 202.544.7290 for more information. Media can contact NIEA Communications at or at 202.544.7290 for additional comments.
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