Press Releases

Washington, D.C. – The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs today passed two pieces of legislation today sponsored by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) that would expand school choice for Native American students and complete construction of the Miner Flat Dam for the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

The first bill titled, the Native American Education Opportunity Act, would offer customized education options, including private tuition scholarships to Native American K-12 students living on Indian reservations as an alternative to attending Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools, which, despite their high cost, include some of the most underperforming schools in the nation.

“A new school year has begun for about 41,000 Native American students in 185 BIE schools around the nation,” said Senator McCain. “Statistically, half of them will not graduate high school. Their test scores will trail by double digits compared to their peers attending public schools in urban areas. While some BIE schools have not been inspected for safety in 10 years, BIE spends more money on Native students than most other school systems in the nation—an estimated $15,000 per student per year. This is unacceptable. I thank the committee for passing my legislation that builds upon school choice initiatives run by states like Arizona, Mississippi and Florida, that empower low-income families to send their kids to a school of their choice – including charter schools, distance learning, and special needs classes.”

The second measure would amend the White Mountain Apache Tribe Water Rights Quantification Act of 2010, which is critical to enable the tribe and the U.S. Department of Interior to move forward with the construction of Miner Flat Dam on the North Fork of the White River on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. 

“The White Mountain Apache Tribe is facing a drinking water crisis,” said Senator McCain. “Groundwater wells on the reservation have dropped by 50 percent and segments of the White River on the reservation are expected to run dry by 2020. The tribe urgently needs to complete the Miner Flat Dam and Reservoir to safeguard its future water supplies. In 2010, Congress enacted a water settlement bill which pledged federal support for completing the Miner Flat Dam.  The legislation passed by the committee today will help put the Bureau of Reclamation back on track to complete this important project.”

###