Page images
PDF
EPUB

able colleague Senator Byrd of West Virginia, and myself to meet with these men and women who represent the association which will be heard through its representative here today.

I think that for the record I would like further to state that we of the West Virginia delegation felt so keenly about the matter that, a few weeks ago, we spent the greater part of a day discussing it, some members finding it necessary to leave the conference and then return. But upon our minds and hearts that day was this problem of education in West Virginia and in the Nation. The speaker this morning was one of those with whom we were privileged to counsel.

Mr. Chairman, I am convinced this is a very real problem. I hope we will not delay longer in at least its partial solution.

Senator YARBOROUGH. Thank you again, Senator Randolph, for appearing here and for presenting this paper. I speak for the subcommittee and for all of those here in thanking you for having given us this privilege of hearing what I consider one of the fine state papers of this session on the greatest unmet domestic problem before us.

Thank you very much.

Our next witness is Mr. Phares Reeder, executive secretary of the West Virginia Education Association, and Vernon A Staggers, president of the West Virginia Education Association.

Mr. Reeder, will you present the statement on behalf of Mr. Staggers and yourself both?

STATEMENTS OF VERNON A. STAGGERS, PRESIDENT, AND PHARES

E. REEDER, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, WEST VIRGINIA EDUCATION ASSOCIATION

Mr. REEDER. Do you want the full text?

Senator YARBOROUGH. You present it in your own way. You may present the full text or summarize it and it will be placed in the record where the absent members will read it. All of it will be printed so that each member of the committee will have it before him when the bill comes up for vote. All this testimony is printed and placed on the desk of each Senator.

Bearing that in mind, you may summarize it in such manner as you choose.

Mr. REEDER. Mr. Chairman, members of the Education Subcommittee, and Senator Randolph, I certainly wish to express appreciation to this subcommittee of the Senate Labor and Public Welfare Committee for the opportunity of testifying in behalf of Federal support of public education.

I am sorry to report that President Vernon Staggers of the West Virginia Education Association is unable to be with us this morning, due to illness and to a heavy snowstorm in his section of West Virginia which made it impossible for him to come.

I have the prepared statement that President Staggers planned to present. If it is the will

of the committee, I shall file the complete text of the statement, but I should like to at least give some highlights from his statement before I enter into my own general statement..

(The statement referred to follows:) STATEMENT BY VERNON A. STAGGERS, PRESIDENT, WEST VIRGINIA EDUCATION

ASSOCIATION

I am Vernon Staggers, president of the West Virginia Education Association, representing more than 17,000 teachers and 460,000 public school children. I am employed in the Mineral County schools of West Virginia as principal of Piedmont High School. We appreciate the opportunity of appearing before the Senate Education Subcommittee in behalf of Federal support for public education. We wish to add the views and findings of West Virginia to those of the National Education Association and other State groups and individuals who already have testified in favor of Federal financial support of the public schools.

The public schools of this country have been plagued with many problems. These problems no longer can be confined to the State and local levels because we are no longer in the "horse-and-buggy" days. No doubt, others already have spoken of the mobility of our population. Quality or lack of quality of education no longer can be fixed to a given area or State. We simply cannot build fences around States and say that the education of your children is entirely your responsibility. Ignorance cannot be isolated. It is very much in the ebb and flow of population movements throughout this country. Therefore, the education of boys and girls becomes the responsibility of the total popula. tion irrespective of boundaries.

It is our purpose today to pinpoint school problems as they pertain to the State of West Virginia. In doing so, we will reflect like conditions found throughout the Nation in varying degrees.

It has been said many times, and we want to reemphasize it, that a good teacher is the key to an effective system of public education. No one can possibly challenge the truthfulness of that statement. We believe the greatest single problem facing our schools is that of getting and keeping well-qualified teachers in the American classrooms. We know that it is a major problem in West Virginia.

During the past 5 years, the small State of West Virginia has had a teacher turnover of approximately 7,500. Of these, 2,000 are now teaching in other States; 4,500 simply quit the classrooms. The balance shifted within the State. Nearly one-third of the net loss of teachers in West Virginia continues to be to other States. This year, over 20 percent of the net loss was due to retirement.

Yes, the average age of the West Virginia teacher is rapidly climbing. It is estimated now to be better than 48 years. This means that large numbers of our teachers will be forced to retire within the next few years. This year's retirement was nearly twice the number of those who retired last year. Where are the replacements to come from?

Why do we lose so many teachers to other States and to other types of employment? The answer is simple. We cannot pay the kind of salary that will attract and hold them in the schools. In 22 of our county school systems, the beginning pay for an A.B. degree teacher is $2,790. Some of our counties are able to supplement the State basic. However, our highest base pay for the beginning teacher is only $3,765. The average salary, including all supplements and experience increments, paid the West Virginia teacher is $3,610. We rank 40th among the States. This is more than $1,100 below the national average which is $4,775. How can West Virginia, how can this Nation expect to attract to the classroom capable young people who are willing to dedicate a life time to the teaching profession? After all, they must live in an ever-expanding économy.

While on the subject of teacher pay, we pause to extend tribute to the loyal teachers of West Virginia and of this country who have remained in the classrooms of the American public school system. The only reason public education in this country has continued to be strong and effective is due not only to their loyalty to the teaching profession but to their own personal subsidization of the financing of our schools. You say, “How is this?” Why, the dedicated time and effort that teachers have given to our schools for such bargain-rate pay can be labeled nothing but a personal subsidy to the financing of the public schools. We believe this to be a price that has gone beyond the call of duty. The time has come for the Federal Government to provide a remedy. A Nation as wealthy as these United States should be ashamed of its treatment of the American teachers.

But the pay of the teacher is not the only reason for his leaving the classroom. Working conditions are equally significant. The West Virginia teacher still faced with classes that are far too large... Overcrowded classes lead to discouragement, discontent on the part of both the teacher and pupil. Many teachers, subject day after day to the frustrating problems of overcrowdedness, simply won't take it, and resign.

In West Virginia, more than 17,000 of our children are crowded into classrooms each day of 40 or more other boys and girls of grade school age. More than four-fifths of all first graders are in classes larger than the 25 accepted as the best number to work with one teacher. Two-thirds of our grade school pupils are in classes larger than a maximum of 30 considered best for proper instruction. Twenty-one hundred are in classes of 45 or more.

Under most circumstances, where a class exceeds 35, a teacher cannot give the proper attention to small groups or individuals. Teaching under such conditions becomes as much "keeping school" as teaching children. More than 60,000 boys and girls are taught under such circumstances in our State.

It is well established that the child learns to like or dislike school very much as a result of his first school experiences. In our State, 90 percent of our first grade children are in oversize classes. This most assuredly cannot be conducive to happy and profitable school experiences for many, many of our beginning children. The average class size for our graded elementary schools is 32 or more. Compare this with the reported 18 in Russia.

No matter how well trained a teacher may be, he or she must have adequate tools with which to work. In West Virginia, we spend for instructional aids and supplies $2.15 per pupil. Compare this with the national average expenditure of $7.50 which we are sure is not extravagant. One can readily see the disadvantage to which both students and teachers are placed. Yet, the West Virginia youth as he moves into the business and labor forces of this country must compete with those who have the greater advantage.

RELATIVE FINANCIAL EFFORT

No doubt, there are those who will ask the question: "What is West Virginia doing to support its schools?” You have a right to complete information as to our effort and our ability to finance education. Research reveals that West Vir; ginia stands 18th among the States in its effort made to support its schools. We spend 2.95 percent of our total income payments for the current operation of our schools. The average for the Nation is 2.57. . Attached to this statement is exhibit I. It presents the relative effort of the respective States. You will note that West Virginia has lost ground. In 1943–44 we were second in effort. However, this does not mean that our people have not been exerting great effort.

West Virginia, by the very nature of its constitution and laws, finances education through a high percentage of State aid. Today, better than 63 percent of the total general revenue of the State goes for the support of education. This has brought about strong opposition to further State aid for the public schools, The same forces, such as the State chamber of commerce, that are fighting State aid for schools strongly oppose Federal support of schools. Mr. Harry Stansbury, managing director of the chamber, has frequently appeared before congressional committees in opposition to Federal support to education in any form.

In spite of this opposition at the State level, we have increased State aid to the public schools more than 57 percent during the past 10 years. During that same period of time, we have increased local aid through property taxes more than 107 percent. No one certainly can say that our people have not been exerting reasonable effort to find funds for their schools. The attached exhibit II shows this growth.

LOCAL TAX POTENTIAL

The next, and certainly a logical, question is: “What is your unused tax potential for schools ?”

By the end of the late twenties, West Virginia had developed a devastating property tax burden. When the great depression of the thirties hit, homes and farms were sold for taxes by the thousands. It was a natural preservation reaction for our people to vote the constitutional tax limitation. In spite of the fact that memories of those dire depression days still linger with many of our citizens and in spite of the current economic slump, especially in our coalfields, our people this past November changed the constitution to provide greater property tax leeways for their schools.

Nothwithstanding this important action of our voters, no great property tax potential for a vast majority of our counties exists. Propertywise, West Virginia is a very poor State. More than 60 percent of our land is in forests. The remainder is in fields, brush, pastures, shrubs, and open wastelands.

From State and local sources of revenue, West Virginia provides for the public schools $214 per pupil. This compares with a national average expenditure of $340 per child. If every county in our State were to vote a full 100percent special levy, as authorized by the better-schools amendment made to the constitution this past fall, we could add an average of $28.83 per pupil to the support of our schools. An exceedingly wide range in the ability of our counties exists. Under this potential, Ohio County could add $66.66 to the support of its schools while Raleigh County could add only $15.54 per child. (See exhibit III.)

The West Virginia Legislature last year mandated a reappraisal of all prop erty. It is estimated that it will take at least 10 years to complete this reappraisal at a State cost of $10 million. Four years ago a law was passed requiring property to be assessed at 50 percent of the appraised or true value. This next year it must go on the books at that 50 percent. We believe the records will show that this is a high ratio of assessed value to real values as compared to what is done in other States.

Assuming that all of our counties get their assessed values on the books at 50 percent of appraised values, and that all counties pass full special levies as provided now by constitution, the total potential additional revenue available is $44.05 per pupil. Presently we spend $106 per pupil less than the average State in this Nation spends for the education of children. If and when we exert full effort, we would still be better than $60 below the average pupil expenditure for the rest of the Nation. The specifics of our relative ability are revealed in the attached exhibits.

SUMMARY In summarizing this part of our West Virginia testimony in behalf of Federal support of public schools, I wish to emphasize these points :

1. West Virginia makes a far better than average effort to support its schools. 2. Its property tax potential is greatly limited.

3. During the past 10 years, we have increased local school support 107.6 percent and State support better than 57 percent.

4. Yet, West Virginia can provide only $214 per pupil as compared with $340 provided by the average State of the Nation.

5. Of the $214, West Virginia uses a high ratio for teachers' salaries; but, even so, it is far too little as exemplified by an average salary of only $3,610.

6. Far too many of its classrooms are overcrowded as attested by the fact that 90 percent of all first graders are in oversized classes.

7. West Virginia annually trains more than 1,200 new teachers a year, but fewer than 50 percent of these take jobs in the schools of this State.

8. Our State continues to lose large numbers of its experienced and qualified teachers each year, having had a 7,500-teacher turnover during the past 5 years.

In conclusion, we make this observation: These United States need to remain strong both at home and abroad. To do so, we must not only adequately maintain our public school program but it must be improved. It must be improved in order to meet the cultural, spiritual, industrial, and scientific needs of a space-age generation. At the present, West Virginia is in little position to meet its share of these needs.

In natire mental ability, West Virginia children and youth are at least average. Yet, the Feaster School Survey of scholastic attainments shows that our youth are 2 years behind the national norm by the time they reach the ninth grade. We know that this is not the fault of the children. We believe that it is not the fault of the school system. We are doing the best that can be done with the kind of money we have for the operation of our schools.

This old adage holds true: “You can't get a silk purse from a sow's ear." Certainly, no one would expect to get jet performance out of a single engine De Haviland plane. Neither can we in West Virginia nor the people of this Nation expect to get the kind of schools that this age and time require from the kind of money that we are investing in our public schools of this Nation. West Virginia is not and cannot provide the kind of money that will in turn provide jet-age schools for our boys and girls. Thank you for the opportunity of testifying in behalf of Federal support to education.

Mr. REEDER. By way of summarizing that part of the testimony presented by President Staggers, I wish to emphasize these particular points:

1. West Virginia makes a far better than average effort to support its schools than do a number of other States of this Nation. For example, we rank 18th among the 48 States in our relative effort to support the education of our boys and girls.

2. West Virginia's property tax potential is greatly limited. In other words, from a property tax base, we are a poor State. For example, better than 60 percent of our land is in forest, and, as to the rest of it, some is reasonably good farmland, but much of it is brushland and that sort of thing.

3. In spite of the general degree of poverty or poorness of the property tax base, during the past 10 years we have increased local school effort or school support better than 107 percent, and we have increased State support better than 57 percent.

4. Yet, with all of that increase, West Virginia can provide only $214 per child as compared with $340 provided by the average State of this Nation.

5. Of this $214, West Virginia uses a high ratio for teachers and for the salaries of teachers. As Senator Randolph pointed out in his testimony, we pay a beginning salary to a 4-year-college-trained teacher of $2,790. Even though we spend this high ratio of our property tax on general school aid, we provide an average salary of only $3,610 to our classroom teachers.

6. Far too many of the classrooms are overcrowded, as attested by this very important fact: 90 percent of all the first graders are in oversized classes. Now think of that. This, of course, is where the child first formulates likes or dislikes for school. Yet we have an overcrowded situation where 90 percent of those first graders are in overcrowded, oversized classes.

7. West Virginia annually trains more than 1,200 new teachers, but fewer than 50 percent of these take jobs in the schools in the State of West Virginia. In other words, we are a training ground for other States.

8. Our State continues to lose large numbers of its experienced and qualified teachers each year, having had a 7,500-teacher turnover during the past 5 years.

Then Mr. Staggers would have reached this conclusion in his statement:

These United States need to remain strong both at home and abroad. To do so, we must not only adequately maintain our public school program but we must improve it. It must be improved in order to meet the cultural, spiritual, industrial, and scientific needs of a space-age generation. At the present time, West Virginia is in an inadequate position to meet its share of these needs.

Now, Nr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I should like to continue a State-level plea for Federal support of education as typified by my own State of West Virginia.

Senator RANDOLPH. Mr. Reeder, while you are assembling your paper I wonder if you might comment on this fact, or at least substantiate it.

а

« PreviousContinue »