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This paper examines the legal and historical background of school choice by American Indian parents and its implications for school choice for a wider public. In the 19th century, American Indian parents had no choice about whether or where their children would be schooled. On many reservations, children were forcibly removed from their parents and taken to Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) boarding schools, where harsh methods were used to erase their language and culture. Some reservation mission schools were favored by Indian parents because they were nearby, the children were treated better than at BIA schools, and Indian languages were not forbidden. In 1904, federal support was withdrawn from sectarian schools on reservations. After a Sioux parent brought suit, the Supreme Court ruled that tribes had the right to use their own trust funds to support reservation sectarian schools. This opinion is the basis of Indian parental choice of many kinds of schools, any of which might be supported by Indian people collectively in accord with tribal policy. By the 1970s, this choice included BIA day schools and boarding schools, public school attendance with residence in a BIA peripheral dormitory, cooperative schools (public schools with a majority of Indian students), and tribally controlled schools. BIA school enrollments declined considerably in the face of attractive alternatives. Since then, school choice has forced major reforms of BIA schools, to the point that they are now competing successfully for Indian students. In many respects, the Indian schools are now "lighthouse" schools with the potential to help the rest of the American educational system to change. (SV)

Descriptors: American Indian Education, American Indian History, Court Litigation, Educational Change, Educational History, Educational Vouchers, Elementary Secondary Education, Parochial Schools, Public Schools, School Choice, Tribally Controlled Education, Tribes

Autor: Lynch, Patrick D.


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