Rethinking School Choice: Educational Options, Control, and Sovereignty in Indian Country

Angelina E. Castagno, David R. Garcia, Nicole Blalock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Despite the plethora of schooling options in Indigenous communities, the public policy debate, research, and discourse on school choice is almost entirely absent a specific engagement with how school choice intersects issues relevant to American Indian youth and tribal nations. This article suggests that Indian Country is an important and unique context for understanding the meaning and processes of school choice because of the government-to-government relationship between tribal nations and the federal government, the sovereign status of tribal nations, the nation-building goals of tribes, and the muddled history of schooling options within Native communities. We offer an alternative way of conceptualizing “school choice” that is more applicable to Indigenous communities and that has yet to be articulated in the literature. First, while schooling options have existed in Indian Country for much longer than has been the case in other communities, the presence of schooling options has not historically been centered upon offering youth and families choices. Instead, it has been about control—control of the schooling offered to Indigenous youth, and therefore, control of youth and communities themselves. Second, while school choice policies focus on autonomy as an important governance principle to prompt change in traditional public school systems, sovereignty has and remains the most salient governance issue within Indigenous communities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-248
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of School Choice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2 2016


  • Native American
  • school choice
  • sovereignty
  • tribal nations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Rethinking School Choice: Educational Options, Control, and Sovereignty in Indian Country'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this