WASHINGTON – Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., pushed a top Interior Department official Thursday to move the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School in northern Minnesota up on the national list of dilapidated American Indian schools needing repairs.
The school is an old, drafty pole barn with electrical and structural problems — not to mention rodents. Kline visited it last month with Rep. Rick Nolan, DFL-Minn.
Thursday's hearing was the second one Kline, the chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, held on the state of Indian education. This time he invited Obama administration officials to explain why so little has been done to improve the conditions in Indian schools, including the Bug school, which is on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation.
"We want these Native American students to be well educated, but you can't be well educated, in my opinion, wearing your coat, wearing your mittens, hoping the blanket keeps out the zero-degree air," Kline told the panel of officials from the Interior and Education departments.
William Mendoza, director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education at the Department of Education, agreed more needed to be done.
"There's still much more work to be done, the current outcomes are unacceptable," Mendoza said. "We can and must fix this."
Kline said he was committed to getting to the bottom of ensuring kids go to safe schools.
"Not to blame, we're all to blame in some degree, but what are we going to do about it?" Kline said.