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If you want an example of the federal government’s myriad failures, the Navajo Nation is a good place to start. Despite billions of dollars of Washington spending, and clumsy micromanagement by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, and the HHS, more than 40 percent of the region’s residents live below the poverty line and the median household income is just $20,005.
The sprawling, semi-autonomous community covers 27,000 square miles of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, but is shared by only 170,000 people. Not only are the residents spread out over a vast distance, a large percentage live in remote locations making it difficult to establish quality local schools. As a result, the average high school graduation rate is a mere 32 percent, with only 5 percent of Navajos holding a bachelor’s degree.
So earlier this year, Sen. John McCain introduced the Native American Education Opportunity Act, which would enable residents of the Navajo Nation and other Native American communities to use an innovative school choice option called Education Savings Accounts. ESAs were first introduced in Arizona five years ago where they have met with great success. Over the past few years, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee replicated Arizona’s plan, making ESAs available only to children with special needs and kids below the poverty line. But last year Nevada took a big leap forward by opening the program to all public school students in the Silver State.