Bureau of Indian Education Snapshot

Published by the Department of the Interior, Office of Inspector General on 2020-07-14.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

               OFFICE OF
               INSPECTOR GENERAL

CARES Act Flash Report

       Bureau of Indian Education Snapshot
                                   On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus
BIE Overview
                                   Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which
                                   provided the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) with $756 million
The BIE provides funding and       to support the needs of DOI programs, bureaus, Indian Country, and
oversight for 55 Bureau-           the Insular Areas.
operated schools and 132
tribally controlled schools. Its   As part of the CARES Act, the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)
mission is to provide              received $69 million from the DOI to prevent, prepare for, and
education and tribal culture       respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The BIE can use this funding for
for students of all ages. The      K – 12 schools, tribal colleges and universities, salaries, transportation,
BIE serves in the capacity of a    and IT.
State Education Agency and
administers and oversees the       In addition to the CARES Act funding appropriated directly to the
Department of Education’s          DOI, the CARES Act’s Education Stabilization Fund required the U.S.
programs in BIE-funded
                                   Department of Education to set aside $153.75 million for programs
schools. The Department of
                                   operated or funded by the BIE, in consultation with the Secretary of
Education transfers funds to
educate and provide services       Interior.
to students attending BIE-
funded elementary and              The CARES Act money will provide much-needed assistance for
secondary schools.                 Indian schools. This report provides a snapshot of the BIE’s funding
                                   and planned expenditures.
Under the Elementary and
Secondary Education Act, the       The BIE’s CARES Act Spend Plan
Department of Education
annually transfers funds to        According to the BIE’s spend plan, which covers the $69 million in
the BIE for eligible programs.     Operation of Indian Education Programs and the $153.75 million from
The BIE also receives an           the Education Stabilization Fund, the BIE will distribute:
annual grant from the
Department of Education
                                      •   The $69 million in Operation of Indian Education Programs
under Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act.               funding between K – 12 schools and dormitories (67 percent)
                                          and tribal colleges and universities (33 percent)
Tribal postsecondary schools
are also funded by a                  •   The $153.75 million from the Education Stabilization Fund
combination of sources                    between funded K – 12 schools and dormitories (70 percent),
including the BIE, the                    tribal colleges and universities (20 percent), and administrative
Department of Education, and              withholdings (10 percent)
other Federal agencies.
                                   The BIE’s goals for its CARES Act funding are distinct from yet
                                   complement those of the Department of Education’s Education
                                   Stabilization Fund.

CARES Act Flash Report • No. 2020-FIN-050 • Issued July 14, 2020                                            1
                                  Operation of Indian Education Programs

                                  The BIE’s $69 million in CARES Act funding will target immediate
                                  student needs related to mental health and safety, staff training, and IT
                                  investments. Specifically, this funding will equip individual schools
                                  with the necessary resources to provide customized solutions to
                                  reopening challenges in all locations.

                                      As of June 29, 2020, the BIE had obligated $49,725,156
                                             in CARES Act funding to K – 12 schools and
                                                   tribal colleges and universities.
The BIE uses a formula to
determine how to distribute
funds to schools. The formula
                                  The BIE plans to allocate CARES Act funds to Bureau-operated and
incorporates the student          tribally controlled schools using a weighted formula to ensure that
count for the entire school       schools have flexibility to prioritize local school needs based on the
year (called the Average Daily    level of immediate impact from COVID-19. See Figure 1 for a
Membership or ADM) and a          breakdown of obligated funds as of June 29, 2020.
Weighted Student Unit (WSU)
for each school. The WSU is             Figure 1: The BIE Obligated $49,725,156 for the
calculated by weighting the                 Operation of Indian Education Programs
ADM for each school to                               (as of June 29, 2020)
account for the school's
requirements for special              K-12 Schools,
services such as basic                  $30,232,346
education, language
development, and gifted and                                                      39%
talented programs as well as
residential requirements.

Five Funding Areas for the
Operation of Indian                                                                 Tribal Colleges
Education Programs                                                                  & Universities,
1. Immediate facilities,
   transportation, and PPE        The BIE conducted comprehensive outreach and information gathering
   readiness                      to determine the immediate IT challenges and needs for each school.
2. Student mental health or       In addition, the BIE established a detailed, school-by-school inventory
   safety needs while             of equipment and software needs and individual school-level IT spend
   returning to normal            plans.
                                  This funding will enable schools to address the need for physical
3. Immediate IT needs to
                                  facility modifications and transportation enhancements as students and
   support instruction
                                  communities prepare to return to daily busing, physical attendance in
4. Computer updates and           classrooms, and residential and dormitory operations. In addition, the
   capacity building              funding will ensure that each school has an adequate level of personal
5. Immediate training on new      protective equipment (PPE) for students and staff.
   learning platforms for staff
   and students                   The BIE will also be able to use this funding to deploy targeted mental
                                  health resources through contract services and address safety needs to

CARES Act Flash Report • No. 2020-FIN-050 • Issued July 14, 2020                                           2
                                  ensure students, teachers, and communities are prepared for the return
                                  to normal operations. In locations particularly affected by the
                                  pandemic, this funding may also be used to implement a
                                  comprehensive safety alert and phone notification system.

                                  In addition, this funding will target immediate hardware and software
                                  needs to facilitate student access to online learning resources. The
                                  funding may also be used to increase schools’ capacity to deliver
                                  immediate education instruction. The funding will also help two tribal
                                  colleges and universities make IT investments and critical IT staff.
Top Five Recipients               Further, the funding will be used to train teachers and other school-
                                  level staff on the newly established IT systems.
1. Navajo Technical College
   $2,534,000                     Education Stabilization Funds
2. Navajo Nation Tribal
   Government                     The objective of the Education Stabilization Fund is to prevent,
   $2,522,270                     prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. The Department
                                  of Education allocated funds from the Education Stabilization Fund to
3. Mississippi Band of Choctaw
                                  six major components, including the BIE. The types of assistance to be
   Central Schools
   $2,299,300                     awarded are formula and project grants.

4. Oglala Lakota College          The Department of Education and the BIE negotiated an interagency
                                  agreement to govern the terms of the $153.75 million in transferred
5. Santa Fe Indian School, Inc.   funds. The U.S. Office of Management and Budget provided feedback
   $1,189,600                     to both agencies on the proposed agreement, and the Department of
                                  Education and the DOI signed the agreement on June 12, 2020. The
                                  agreement directs the BIE to make every effort to distribute the funds
The CARES Act authorized a
Catalog of Federal Domestic
                                  with 90 days of the transfer.
Assistance number (CFDA No.
84.425) for the Department of     The transfer of Education Stabilization Funds to the BIE began on
Education’s Education             June 15, 2020, and the total transferred amount became available to
Stabilization Fund.               the BIE on June 17, 2020.

The BIE plans to focus its         The Department of Education initiated the transfer of funds to
spending of funds from the        the BIE on June 15, 2020, meaning the BIE’s effective deadline
Education Stabilization Fund             for distributing the funds is September 15, 2020.
to schools for two areas:
1. IT Systems Planning and        The purpose of the funding from the Department of Education is to
   Life-Cycle Sustainability      help schools plan for and address mid- to long-term challenges in
   – to acquire IT equipment,     providing continuity of instruction, such as gaps in IT infrastructure.
   software, platforms, and       With support from the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ (BIA’s) IT
   learning systems that are      department, project management staff, and school-level leadership, the
   focused on schools’ long-
                                  BIE will target IT learning systems that support the long-term
   term needs
                                  sustainability of distance education.
2. Broadband and
   Connectivity – to target       The BIE is required to use the $153.75 million from the Education
   systemic infrastructure        Stabilization Fund as follows:
   investment needs and
   connectivity improvements

CARES Act Flash Report • No. 2020-FIN-050 • Issued July 14, 2020                                        3
                                      •   No less than 90 percent must go to BIE-funded schools,
                                          including K – 12 schools, early childhood education programs,
                                          and tribal colleges and universities.

                                      •   The BIE may use the remaining funds for emergency needs to
                                          address issues in responding to COVID-19.

                                      •   The BIE may reserve up to half of 1 percent (approximately
                                          $768,750) of the total allocation for administrative costs.

                                   We reached out to the BIE and the Department of Education to gain an
The BIE plans to allocate the      understanding of the fund transfer agreement. The Department of
administrative withholdings as     Education told us that it needed to reach an agreement with the BIE on
follows:                           several key issues, including details on how the funds will be spent in
                                   accordance with applicable Federal laws and how the BIE will meet
•   $8 million for direct mental
    and behavioral health
                                   the reporting requirements in Section 15011 of the CARES Act.
                                   Because each BIE-funded school faces unique COVID-19-related
•   $5 million to upgrade the       challenges, and pursuant to current Department of Education’s
    internet speed at five                 guidelines, specific amounts will vary by school.

•   $2.4 million to address        Reporting
    unforeseen health and
    safety challenges over the     The BIE plans to assign financial analysts to each school and office to
    2020 – 2021 school year        evaluate school-level spend plans and monitor the use of funds. We
                                   discuss reporting milestones required by Section 15011(b)(1) of the
                                   CARES Act in our Where’s the Money report dated June 15, 2020
                                   (Report No. 2020-FIN-046). The BIE is also required to submit reports
The BIE’s first quarter            to the DOI’s budget office. In addition, the recipients will need to
report to the Department           submit financial reports (SF-425s) for the funds; however, most of the
of Education will include:         obligated funds are attached to existing agreements that already
                                   require SF-425s. The BIE will also provide copies of all reports on the
•   A copy of the budget,          use of Education Stabilization Funds to the Department of Education.
    including activities funded
    with the amounts BIE is        In addition, the BIE will submit a first quarter report to the Department
    reserving for system-wide      of Education with information on the budget, internal controls, and
                                   allocations as well as a third quarter report that includes any updates to
•   An internal controls plan
                                   the first quarter report. It will also provide a final report by December
    that includes monitoring       31, 2021, describing what activities these funds supported and the
    for all funds allocated to     results of those activities.
    BIE-funded schools and
    tribal colleges and            In our Lessons Learned for CARES Act Awards report dated May 2020
    universities                   (Report No. 2020-FIN-037), we discussed issues with the lack of
                                   monitoring and documentation, the use of funds for tribes, and
•   Information on allocations     deficient review of recipients’ performance and financial reports.
    to BIE-funded schools and
    program                        Further, our June 2020 Lessons Learned for Indian Country report
                                   (Report No. 2020-FIN-045) noted that the key action for the BIE was

CARES Act Flash Report • No. 2020-FIN-050 • Issued July 14, 2020                                           4
                                    to ensure that proper internal controls are in place to monitor and track

                      ,., ,
                                    CARES Act funds. The BIE should be able to achieve this by
                                    assigning financial analysts to each school.

                                    Funding Timeline

                                    April 1              The BIE receives the apportionment of $69
                                                         million from the Department of the
                                    April 8              The Department of Education receives
                                                         apportionment of the Education Stabilization
Local educational agencies                               Fund from the Department of the Treasury.
may use the funding from
the Education Stabilization         April 16             The BIE issues the first grant award using
Fund for activities such as:                             the $69 million in CARES Act funds.
                                    April 28 & 30        The Department of Education and the BIE
•   Coordinating preparedness                            hold joint listening sessions to gather input
    and response efforts with                            from tribes and other stakeholders on use
    State, local, tribal, and                            of the funds.
    territorial public health
                                    April 30             The DOI approves the BIE’s initial spend
    departments and other
                                                         plan for the $69 million.
    relevant agencies
                                    May 6                Written comments from the public are due
•   Training on sanitation and                           to the BIE and the Department of
    minimizing the spread of                             Education.
    infectious diseases
                                    May 18               The Secretary of the Interior requests
                                                         further information on the spend plan for
•   Purchasing supplies to
                                                         the BIE’s $69 million and $154 million. The
    sanitize and clean facilities
                                                         BIE collects additional information and
                                                         redrafts the spend plan per the Secretary’s
•   Planning for long-term
    closures to include
    providing meals to eligible     June 3               The DOI approves the BIE’s spend plan.
    students and technology         June 12              The BIE and the Department of Education
    for online learning                                  jointly sign a funding agreement that sets a
                                                         September 15, 2020 deadline for
•   Purchasing educational                               distributing the funds.
    technology (i.e., hardware,
    software, and                   June 15              The Department of Education initiates a
    connectivity) for all                                transfer of funds to the BIE.
    students                        June 16              The Department of the Treasury transfers
                                                         $154 million from the Department of
•   Providing mental health                              Education to the BIE through a non-
    services and support                                 expenditure transfer.

•   Planning and implementing       June 17              The BIA prepares the FBMS to make the
    activities related to                                funds available.
    summer learning and             September 15         The BIE’s effective deadline for distributing
    supplemental afterschool                             the funds is 90 days after the June 15, 2020
    programs                                             transfer.

CARES Act Flash Report • No. 2020-FIN-050 • Issued July 14, 2020                                            5