Wyden and Merkley research financial and academic records

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US Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley want answers to questions they asked six years ago about the Chemawa Indian School that have not been answered.

On Monday, Oregon senators sent a letter to the inspector general of the US Department of the Interior requesting information on Chemawa’s accounting practices and student results.

Specifically, they want to know details such as “(has the Bureau of Indian Education) identified Chemawa as a high-risk school that requires additional BIE monitoring?” And “For each fiscal year from 2018 to 2021, in To what extent has the IBE audited the annual Chemawa school budget or carried out quarterly financial reviews? ”

They also want the federal office to update its 2015 review of school policies to determine if progress has been made in increasing student academic achievement, according to a recent press release.

In the letter, senators ask, “Does Chemawa currently have a functioning school board?” And “What is its composition and what role does it play in the financial oversight of the school administration?”

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The letter was submitted a day after the Statesman Journal printed an in-depth review of Chemawa’s story and role in a federal burial investigation.

When asked why Senators have submitted the letter now, Hank Stern of the Wyden office replied, “Due to concerns brought to our office. “

The Statesman contacted the Salem school and the IBE leadership but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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Six years of waiting

The Office of the Inspector General released two reports in July 2015 on academic achievement and violence prevention policies in Chemawa, according to Wyden and Merkley’s account.

At the time, reports concluded that the school “did not properly assess the educational needs of its students” and was “unable to effectively prioritize its resources to ensure the academic success of its student body.”

This 2015 review, senators wrote in the recent letter, determined that the school had made significant progress on violence prevention policies since the previous reviews in 2008 and 2014, as well as measures of the school were simply “adequate” to prevent violence against students and teachers. at school.

“In the six years that have passed since the review of your office, we have continued to receive complaints about alleged financial mismanagement of the school,” senators wrote to the Inspector General of the Interior. Mark Greenblatt.

“These allegations have been difficult to assess due to the school’s opaque financial practices,” they wrote. “Our offices have repeatedly asked school officials for basic financial data. To date, we have not received a satisfactory response to these requests.”

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The Bureau of Indian Education, in response to requests from Oregon Public Broadcasting, acknowledged that there was an oversight of all spending from school budgets, but no detailed financial audits, the senators wrote.

Wyden and Merkley contend that their delegations worked in good faith with school officials and the IBE to get answers and resolve issues.

“However,” they wrote, “after several years, we remain deeply concerned that we may not receive satisfactory answers to the most basic questions relating to the school’s accounting practices.”

Chronology

► In 2013, the United States Government Accountability Office determined that the Bureau of Indian Education “lacks clear procedures for decision-making”, which results in “the IBE acting outside its field of authority and undermines the ability of school officials to assess student performance. . “

► In a 2014 monitoring report, according to the statement, the accountability office further determined that the IBE “does not adequately monitor school spending using written procedures or a monitoring approach based on risks, contrary to federal internal control standards “.

► In July 2015, the Office of the Inspector General released two reports on academic achievement and violence prevention policies in Chemawa.

► A 2017 series of Oregon Public Broadcasting investigations shed light on Chemawa, highlighting the deaths of three students as well as allegations of fraud, mismanagement, lack of transparency and abuse at the school.

► In 2018, the IBE responded to previous concerns with a new financial and program supervision policy; However, federal officials said their offices “continue to receive complaints about an alleged misuse of the school’s financial resources.”

► During congressional hearings in May 2019, Oregon representatives Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici criticize Chemawa for failing students and tribes who put their children in school care.

► Schrader and Bonamici call for Home Office responses to issues raised in the OPB series and promise changes that could include transforming the school into a non-profit organization with more tribal oversight and greater financial responsibility.

► In 2021, this had not happened; However, both Schrader and Bonamici said the school was making improvements following a visit in August 2019.

Contact the journalist Nathalie Pate To [email protected], 503-399-6745, Twitter @NataliePateGwin, or Facebook at www.Facebook.com/nataliepatejournalist.



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