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Sun Dec 25, 2016, 07:07 PM

Native-American Education: What Will It Take To Fix The 'Epitome Of Broken'?

Native-American Education: What Will It Take To Fix The 'Epitome Of Broken'?

December 25, 20165:00 PM ET

High up in the mountains of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, Delphine Gatewood teaches special education at the Crystal Boarding School. She's dreading this winter, like she dreads every winter, because temperatures can slip into the negative digits which the school building just can't handle.

"You have a boiler system that regulates heat at one certain temperature so you can't turn it down," she says. "It gets so hot in the classroom and you have to open the windows in the dead of winter."

The Crystal Boarding School isn't part of any local school district in New Mexico. It's overseen at the federal level by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education. As are nearly 200 other Native-American schools nationwide.

In 2015, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education at the time, called the Bureau "the epitome of broken." The federal school system has been around for more than 150 years, marred by a past of forcefully assimilating students, rock-bottom academic performance and a crumbling infrastructure.


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