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Tribally Controlled Schools


25 USC Ch. 27  Tribally Controlled School Grants 

Formerly known as the Office of Indian Education Programs, the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) was renamed and established on August 29, 2006, to reflect the parallel purpose and organizational structure BIE has in relation to other programs within the Office of the Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs. The BIE is headed by a Director who is responsible for the line direction and management of all education functions, including the formation of policies and procedures, the supervision of all program activities and the approval of the expenditure of funds appropriated for education functions. 

There have been three major legislative actions that restructured the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) with regard to educating American Indians since the Snyder Act of 1921. First, the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 introduced the teaching of Indian history and culture in BIA schools (until then it had been Federal policy to acculturate and assimilate Indian people by eradicating their tribal cultures through a boarding school system). Second, the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 (P.L. 93-638) gave authority to federally recognized tribes to contract with the BIA for the operation of Bureau-funded schools and to determine education programs suitable for their children. The Education Amendments Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-561) and further technical amendments (P.L. 98-511, 99-99, and 100-297) provided funds directly to tribally operated schools, empowered Indian school boards, permitted local hiring of teachers and staff, and established a direct line of authority between the Education Director and the AS-IA. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-110) brought additional requirements to the schools by holding them accountable for improving their students’ academic performance with the U.S. Department of Education supplemental program funds they receive through the Bureau.   

As stated in Title 25 CFR Part 32.3, BIE’s mission is to provide quality education opportunities from early childhood through life in accordance with a tribe’s needs for cultural and economic well-being, in keeping with the wide diversity of Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages as distinct cultural and governmental entities. Further, the BIE is to manifest consideration of the whole person by taking into account the spiritual, mental, physical, and cultural aspects of the individual within his or her family and tribal or village context. The BIE school system employs thousands of teachers, administrators and support personnel, while many more work in tribal school systems. 

There are 183 Bureau-funded elementary and secondary schools, located on 64 reservations in 23 states, served approximately 46,000 Indian students. Of these, 53 are BIE-operated and 130 are tribally operated under BIE contracts or grants. The Bureau also funds or operates off-reservation boarding schools and peripheral dormitories near reservations for students attending public schools. The BIE also serves American Indian and Alaska Native postsecondary students through higher education scholarships and support funding for tribal colleges and universities.  The BIE directly operates two postsecondary institutions: the Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU) in Lawrence, Kansas, and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI) in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  

What is a Tribally Controlled School  

A  school that receives a grant under the Tribally Controlled Schools Act of 1988, as amended ( 25 U.S.C. 2501 et seq.) or is determined by the Secretary to meet the eligibility criteria of section 5205 of the Tribally Controlled Schools Act of 1988, as amended ( 25 U.S.C. 2504 ). 

A school that is operated by an Indian Tribe or a Tribal organization, enrolling K-12, including pre-school. 

A school that is not a local education agency; and not directly administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

Difference between a Tribally Controlled and Bureau Operated School

The BIE serves in the capacity of a State Education Agency and administers and oversees the education programs in BIE-funded schools. The Department of Education transfers funds to educate and provide services to students attending BIE-funded elementary and secondary schools. Schools funded by the BIE are either operated by the BIE or by tribes under contracts or grants. BIE-operated schools are under the direct auspices of the BIE, and tribally operated schools are run by individual federally recognized tribes with grants or contracts from the BIE.


Federal and Tribal Partnerships 

The Bureau of Indian Education's long-term vision is to strengthen our relationship with Tribes. The BIE values Tribally Operated School where sovereignty, Native cultures and communities are their foundation. In support of Tribally Controlled Schools, the TCS- Education Resource Centers work in partnership with Tribal Nations in providing technical assistance to schools in an effort to help them provide eligible Indian students with a high quality education that reflects their unique cultures and communities.   


Tribally-Controlled Grant Schools Assurances 

The Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 (Public Law 93-638) authorized the Secretary of the Interior, the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, and some other government agencies to enter into contracts with, and make grants directly to, federally recognized Indian tribes. The tribes would have authority for how they administered the funds, which gave them greater control over their welfare. The ISDEAA is codified at Title 25, United States Code, beginning at section 5301 (formerly section 450).  

Public Law 100-297 allowed schools to become a tribally controlled school governed by a Board of Trustees. This law provides for more management and leadership flexibility to Tribes in the area of operational and administration educational programs. Therefore, building their programs based on educational sovereignty – the right and responsibility to educate their Indian children in manner that supports their cultural and traditional belief systems.


Tribally-Controlled Schools Organization Chart

  • Tribally Controlled Schools (TCS) within the Education Resource Center (ERC) team networks of Albuquerque, Nashville, Seattle, Minneapolis, Flandreau, Kyle and Bismarck. These 97 TCS's are all spread out across the United States and they are the schools under the direction of individual Tribal Governments which have chosen to exercise their self-determination rights through a process of self-governance. 

Tribally Controlled Organizational Structure
Tribally Controlled Schools Organizational Chart

U.S. Department of the Interior and BIA Responsibilities for BIE Facilities 

BIA and BIE Relationship 

The Bureau of Indian Affairs and Bureau of Indian Education within DOI are the federal agencies responsible for executing Congress’ directives regarding American Indian education. The BIA funds (183) schools serving Native Americans located on 64 reservations in 23 states. (Fifty-seven) of these schools are managed directly by the BIE (Bureau Operated Schools) and (126) are operated by tribes with Bureau funding (Tribally Controlled Schools). The Office of Facilities Management & Construction, under the Director of the OFECR, is responsible for recommending to the Director of the BIE the distribution of operations and maintenance funds, and for the management and funding of projects for the repair, renovation, and replacement of Bureau-funded schools. 

Indian Affairs (IA) is responsible for funding, maintaining, repairing, and replacing the (183) schools educating American Indian students. IA’s relationship to those schools is like that of a state educational agency to the public schools it serves. A key distinction, however, is that state educational agencies receive tax revenues from the localities of their respective schools and Federal Impact Aid money (P.L. 81-815). In contrast, Bureau-funded schools cannot draw on the local tax base; they cannot issue bonds; they are primarily dependent upon support from the Federal Government. Bureau-funded schools must abide by 23 different state standards, federal standards, and in many cases, tribal standards. 

Providing proper educational facilities is not only essential to fulfilling the academic, social, and cultural needs of Native American children, but is also a matter of trust responsibility for the Federal Government, as well as treaty rights for many tribes. Satisfying these obligations involves attention to both the condition of the facilities and the quality of the educational experience. To promote successful educational experiences, children must be able to learn in environments that are safe, enriching, culturally appropriate, and technologically advanced. 

Constructing and maintaining Bureau-funded school facilities is a major component of DOI’s trust responsibility to American Indians; it is a requirement of many treaties and statutes. 


BIA Office of Facilities, Property, and Safety Management  

The office is responsible for policy, oversight, and technical assistance for facilities management, facilities construction, asset management, safety management, property management, and real property leasing for all of Indian Affairs, including Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). 

Division of Risk and Safety Management  

The Office of Facilities, Property, and Safety Management (OFPSM) Division of Safety and Risk Management (DSRM) provides senior leadership, policy, and oversight for Indian Affairs (IA) safety programs required by law including occupational safety and health, industrial hygiene, and public safety (non-law enforcement)  

Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Indian Affairs 

The BIA Operations and Maintenance (O&M) program is the performance of day-to-day activities required to maintain Bureau-owned and/or maintained facilities (buildings, grounds, equipment, systems) to the maximum extent possible for the benefit of the facility users. The primary goal is to ensure that all facilities are maintained in a safe and healthy environment for the occupants and for the protection of the property.  

MAXIMO -Indian Affairs Facilities Management System 

Indian Affairs - Facilities Management System is a suite of applications that provides asset management functions to Indian Affairs. This tool is known for its capabilities and provides comprehensive functionality in the various aspects of asset management for the locations, regions, and Central Office of IA. 

Minor Improvement & Repair/ Indian Affairs 

The BIA Minor Improvement and Repair (MI&R) program provides guidance and administration of funds for immediate and quick fix items for facilities safety and operations, which without remedial action would impact the integrity of the facility. 

Facilities Improvement and Repair/ Indian Affairs 

The BIA Facilities Improvement and Repairs (FI&R) program is focused towards eliminating critical health and safety hazards in Bureau education facilities. The FI&R program seeks to maximize the use of existing educational facilities and reduce the costs of repair, operation, and maintenance by repairing, rehabilitating, or replacing educational facilities in lieu of completely new construction.  

Replacement School Program/ Indian Affairs 

The Replacement School Construction program provides for the replacement of total or major portions of existing facilities in those instances where rehabilitation, upgrade, or repair of the existing facilities is not economically feasible or because of student capacity needs, required functional changes, and costs. 

Facility Lease Agreement- Section 105(I) 

Section 105(l) of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA) provides that Tribes and Tribal organizations carrying out Federal functions under a self-determination contract or self-governance compact may enter into a lease agreement with the Department of the Interior (DOI) for the Tribally owned or rented facility used to carry out those functions. 

Human Resources  

Background check requirements:  

The Bureau of Indian Education's top priority is ensuring the safety of our students and staff. As federally funded schools, TCS sign assurances agreeing to meet the requirements for the funding.  Background reviews have always been about of Tribally Controlled Schools yearly audit, which was conducted by Grants Specialists.  Last year, the BIE's Human Resource Department took over the background reviews from Grants Management because they are the subject matter experts for this,  

25 CFR 63.13 (b) states: 

(b) All Indian tribes or tribal organizations receiving funds under the authority of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act or the Tribally Controlled Schools Act of 1988 must conduct a background investigation for individuals whose duties and responsibilities would allow them regular contact with or control over Indian children, and employ only individuals who meet standards of character that are no less stringent than those prescribed for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. 

Personnel Security Information and Resources   

Personnel Security (PerSec) created this page specifically for TCS schools to provide the resources needed for schools to meet Personnel Security Requirements under 25 CFR 63, Indian Child Protection and Family Violence Prevention, along with recommendations on how to enhance TCS school's personnel security program. Link below for more information. 



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