INDIAN EDUCATION: Actions Needed to Ensure Students with Disabilities Receive Special Education Services

INDIAN EDUCATION: Actions Needed to Ensure Students with Disabilities Receive Special Education Services

GAO-20-358: Published: May 22, 2020. Publicly Released: Jun 5, 2020.

Found at: https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-20-358

In a recent Government Accounting Office (GAO) report, the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) did not provide or could not account for almost 40 percent of the special education service time it was required to provide for Native American students eligible for special education and related services.

The GAO report found inadequate monitoring and a lack of qualified staff were among the factors that left the BIE unable to “ensure that the schools it funds are meeting their responsibilities” under IDEA. The GAO analyzed school records, and found the BIE knowingly failed to provide the service time outlined in students’ IEPs for 20 percent of the students. There were also problems with a lack of documentation that services were provided, as the BIE could not document services were provided in over 18% of the cases.

The Bureau of Indian Education has 185 schools across many states. The special education population is over 6,000 students.

The GAO offered a series of recommendations. The recommendations should be viewed by all LEA and SEA directors to make sure they are in compliance with the IDEA.

Here’s a look at the recommendations:

  1.  The Director of BIE should establish consistent requirements for schools on making up missed special education and related services and monitor schools to ensure that they follow these requirements.
  2. The Director of BIE should work with knowledgeable stakeholders in Indian education to establish a community of practice or other formal mechanism to identify and disseminate promising practices for schools—especially those in remote locations—on recruiting, hiring, and retaining special education teachers and contracting with providers. The Director of BIE could consider conferring with BIE’s special education advisory committee, OSEP, and relevant tribal and state education officials in addressing this recommendation.
  3. The Director of BIE should rescind the policy of its division overseeing tribally controlled schools that does not meet Interior’s requirement to annually review all schools’ documentation to verify the provision of services for every special education student and ensure that all divisions comply with this requirement.
  4. The Director of BIE should update the agency’s workforce plan to include a strategy and timeframe for filling vacant staff positions responsible for overseeing and supporting schools’ special education programs.
  5. The Director of BIE should fully implement the agency’s high-risk monitoring policy for IDEA and other federal education programs, including requirements for agency-wide coordination, and ensure that schools selected for such monitoring receive reports and technical assistance plans within 30 days of agency on-site visits, as required by BIE policy.
  6. The Director of BIE should establish special education training requirements for staff in the agency’s Education Resource Centers who are responsible for supporting and overseeing schools’ special education programs, and ensure that staff complete those training requirements
  7. The Director of BIE should take steps to ensure that all of the agency’s Education Resource Centers conduct outreach with schools to inform them of their new roles in overseeing and supporting schools’ special education programs under BIE’s reorganization.

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