An attempt by the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs to shift the last of the BIA's schools in Alaska to state control is being fought by Eskimo and Aleut natives and educators who have enlisted a powerful ally--Senate Majority Whip Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).
Over the past decade, a handful of the 120 BIA schools in Alaska were transferred each year to state control as the state gained the resources and revenues necessary to handle education in the bush. But this year, BIA wanted to speed up the process and transfer all the rest.
After the state protested, the BIA offered instead to transfer only 16 schools this year and 21 in fiscal 1983. The schools now cost $6.75 million a year to operate; BIA has offered to provide the state with a little less than that to help pay for some of the costs of the transfer.
Under state control, curriculum would be governed by 21 regional authorities rather than local native school boards.
"The staff will be different, the curriculum will change and there will be no local school board," complained Ida Aukon, a school board member from Elim. "We just don't feel comfortable with the speed with which this is happening."
BIA spokesman Carl Shaw said state responsibility for education is "mandated in Alaska's state constitution, so there's no question that we have the authority" to transfer the schools.
Stevens plans to use an appropriation hearing today to review BIA's schedule for the transfers.