Page images
PDF
EPUB

that it has dangerous implications for the future of Federal-State relationships and that it will detract from, rather than add to, the quality of public education. Our beliefs are elaborated in the remainder of this statement.

EDUCATION : A RESPONSIBILITY OF STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS

The authors of this bill seem to recognize that education is not a Federal responsibility. This is implied in section 2; section 11 contains specific “assurances" against Federal interference in the schools. However, the requirements of other sections of the bill do, in fact, constitute an intrusion on State and local administration of the schools.

Section 2, while paying lipservice to State and local control of public education, nevertheless sets the stage for Federal control by asserting the existence of a crisis in classroom construction and teachers' salaries of such magnitude that only Federal aid can remedy it. If this claim is followed by funds, as it will be should this bill be enacted, the participating communities will, in effect, be directed to do something about school construction and teachers' salaries. The bill not only involves control in this broad sense, it also is restrictive because it would divert the school boards from trying to define and solve their local problems to finding a way to use these new Federal funds. If school boards and State educational agencies are made disbursing officers for the Federal Government, they will lose their incentive and their authority as local policymaking bodies.

Another form of control is found in the prescription of labor standards for school construction (sec. 9). If we are truly facing a critical classroom shortage, why should not the local communities be allowed to build those classrooms at the prevailing local wage even if that does not meet the standards of the DavisBacon Act? When they are told what wages they are to pay for the construction, the local school authorities are subject to regulation by the Federal Governmentno matter what other wording appears elsewhere in the bill. And if the Federal Government can control the wages of the men who build the schools, how soon will it choose also to control the wages of those who teach there?

The answer to the last question is, in a way, already in the bill. It takes the form of the so-called school effort index, which would become effective in the fourth year of the proposed program. This index, as defined in section 8(a), for all practical purposes sets national standards for school expenditures. Of course, no State is forced to comply with those standards. However, if it did not, it would lose some of the funds to which it should be entitled if this bill were not really a method to control educational standards.

THE AVAILABILITY OF TAX RESOURCES

The rationale for this bill is found in section 2:

“* * * the Congress recognizes that without sufficient financial resources at their disposal to provide necessary educational facilities and to employ competent teaching personnel, the control of our Nation's schools is not directed by State and local school boards but is dictated by the harsh demands of privation. * *

“In order to provide State and local school boards with actual, as well as nominal, control of schools, the Congress has the responsibility for appropriately sharing in their financial support.'

Certainly this is the height of fiscal fantasy. If the tax structure needs to be overhauled so that the States and localities have increased sources of revenue, is it not better to do that than to shift a State responsibility to the Federal Government which then "shares appropriately” in supporting that function? But if the States are truly without financial resources, where is the Federal Government to get the money? It is an interesting coincidence that, shortly after this bill was submitted, Mr. George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, discussing school construction with a group of labor educators, said : “There is no point in further talk of meeting this problem at the school district level, or even the community or State level. Their tax well has run dry.” (Quoted in the AFL-CIO News, January 17, 1959.) If “their” tax well has run dry, so has that of the Federal Government for they are one and the same the resources of the people.

THE EDUCATIONAL NEED

The educational crisis, as defined in this bill, relates to the alleged classroom shortage and the need for adequate salaries for competent teaching personnel. According to this bill, these problems can be solved by Federal money.

Whose solution is this for our educational problems? The States have not asked for this type of "help" in solving their school problems. Neither have the local school boards. The insistence in recent years on Federal aid for school construction and teachers' salaries has come from the National Education Association. In fact, the formula for grants used in this bill was first called to our attention in a New York Times story of December 21, 1957, which described it as an NEA program:

“4.6 BILLION IN SCHOOL AID BY UNITED STATES IS URGED AS THE ANNUAL NEED

NEA OFFERS PROGRAM TO MEET 'CRISIS' LINKÉD TO THE SOVIET GAINS-OUTLAY WOULD RISE FROM 1.1 BILLION START

2

“(By Bess Furman, special to the New York Times) "** * The specific proposals of the NEA were presented by Dr. James L. McCaskill, executive secretary of its legislative commission.

"The principal feature of the permanent plan would account for almost all of the Federal aid money. It calls for grants to the States of $25 per school child in the first year, then rising to $100 in the fourth year and standing thereafter. * * *»

Does this mean that all educators support this program? Certainly not. A school superintendent recently wrote:

“ * * * I am very much concerned about the Federal Government's attempt to get control of our schools, and certainly hope that the American people will urge Congress to kill any Federal aid to education bills that may be in. troduced this session * * * Some of the school people of our country, I'm afraid, have been rather thoroughly brainwashed.”

Actually it is not the Federal Government as such that is attempting to get control of our schools. However, individuals in both Congress and the administration are aiding and abetting the forces within the educational profession that are apparently seeking such control. Increasingly since the end of World War II these educators have appealed for Federal aid much more insistently than they have sought help and attention from State and local authorities.

Why? Certainly this reflects a general trend toward centralization of government. It also reflects the erroneous notion that it takes Federal action to give a problem its proper attention. Dr. Burkhardt comments further:

“There is nothing incompatible between the national interest in an educated citizenry and our tradition of leaving responsibility for general public education to the States. The national interest in education, like many other national objectives, is best served by State and local administration and control.”

The request for Federal participation in education undoubtedly also represents a desire on the part of some professional educators to achieve control of education by defining national standards.

This bill calls attention to two problems-classroom shortages and teachers' salaries. But even if these were resolved to the complete satisfaction of the professional educators, we would not have solved our educational problems. We would not, for example, have done anything about improving teaching quality, raising the standards of curriculum or making economics, science, and mathematics attractive to the gifted students who now shun these difficult subjects. We would have made life more attractive and more pleasant for teachers and administrators, but that is not the substance of education.

Dr. James B. Conant, reporting on his recent study of the American high school, stated that the necessary improvements in secondary education can come only 3 * * * * if the citizens in many localities display sufficient interest in their schools and are willing to support them. The improvements must come school by school and be made with due regard for the nature of the community. Therefore, I conclude by addressing this final word to citizens who are concerned with public education : avoid generalizations, recognize, the necessity of diversity, get the facts about your local situation, elect a good school board, and support the efforts of the board to improve the schools." This report by one of our distinguished educators has been well received by many thoughtful educational administrators and classroom teachers. It certainly is far cry from the nationalization of educational standards.

2 Dr. A. P. Burkhardt writing in News and Cues, published by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States, February 1959 issue.

9 J. B. ('onant, “The American High School Today," New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., p. 96.

In his projections of school enrollment to 1970, based on U.S. Office of Education figures, Mr. Roger A. Freeman showed that the increase in public school enrollments will become smaller after 1960 (a summary of Freeman's table XI is attached as p. 9). Yet the formula for aid for school construction asks for the smallest contribution for this fiscal year. In other words, the States will be receiving most of the "Federal aid" after they have passed the peak need caused by population growth in the 5 to 17 age group. If the proponents of this bill were sincerely convinced of an actual, current, physical shortage of classrooms, would the bill not have asked for larger sums sooner? By asking for the apparently “token" contribution of $25 per child for the first year they have attempted to make the Federal share look unimportant. But it is very important-regardless of the amount-because it brings the Federal Government into general education for the first time and because it provides for a continuing and permanent subsidy. Therefore, the bill introduces continuing and permanent Federal control of education.

Freeman's study also showed that there has been a tendency to overestimate the need for classrooms. His conclusion, after carefully weighing population and construction data, was: * "* * * it appears that most States are constructing classrooms at a rate which, if maintained over the next 12 years, is adequate. Current shortages are being slowly reduced and, in a few years, should no longer be substantial by reasonable standards. A number of States will need to accelerate their construction somewhat. Major increases appear to be necessary only in about half a dozen States."

This temperate conclusion was not popular with the proponents of the argument that only “massive infusions” of Federal money can provide an adequate number of classrooms. Also, people who admit the need to increase the salaries of competent teachers, but question the wisdom of across-the-board increases, have been greeted as enemies rather than friends of education by the defenders of the educational status quo. There is nothing more likely to arouse the wrath of this group of educators than the phrase "merit pay."

We in industry know that raising salaries does attract more people into a particular segment of the labor market. But it does not automatically attract more competent people. And what we need is not just more teachers but more good teachers. We need to raise the standards of teacher-training institutions and to provide incentives for special effort and competence. Raising pay alone will not improve the quality of public education. It will merely reward mediocrity and entrench the commonplace teacher.

Nor should we expect that school districts, if they are relieved of pressing financial problems by such legislation, will be encouraged to look for ways to increase the effectiveness of the dollars they spend. This bill may represent a “liberal” point of view with respect to the growth of centralized government. But it is regressive with respect to education because it would perpetuate points of view that are fast becoming too readily and uncritically accepted.

This statement is not far-fetched. Within the year we have seen attacks on two responsible publications because they attempted to stimulate public discussion of educational problems. The Reader's Digest was concerned with the question of economy in school construction. The articles in Life dealt primarily with problems of curriculum. When the National Association of Secondary School Principals urged its members to threaten to cancel their subscriptions to Life after the publication of the first article in a five-part series, the New York Herald Tribune commented editorially under the title “Reading, 'Riting, and Boycotting":

"Like that old weather adage, everybody talks about the schools but nobody does anything about them. Those who try often find that their reward is a volley of abuse. Life magazine is now in this ironic position.

"* * * Both the magazine and Mr. Larsen have long been vigorous fighters for better schools. This is not to say that the magazine's findings are infallible. It is a field in which many sincere people disagree. But the value of the series is that it stimulates debate and invites an open study of our strengths and weaknesses.

In such a healthy climate the action of the NASSP is narrow and bigoted. There is something repugnant in the spectacle of a professional group telling its members to boycott freedom of the press. There is probably something illegal, too, as the magazines and books in school libraries are provided by

4 R. A. Freeman, “School Needs in the Decade Ahead," Washington, D.C. : Institute for Social Science Research, 1958, p. 205.

37378-59-18

public funds. These journals should be available to all students, not spitefully removed by any faction whose private interests are crossed. Freedom of inquiry is the basis of education. America must teach her people how to think, not what to think” (Apr. 17, 1958, editorial).

State and local control of education is one of our great successes, as well as one of our great traditions. In the 1950–57 period, amid all the talk of “crisis," this system expanded the Nation's teaching force by more than one-third, increased the average teacher's salary by more than half, built half a million new classrooms.5

Federal control necessarily follows Federal dollars, though in more or less subtle fashion. Federal control would remove the incentive of local school boards to improve the quality of their educational systems. This bill would serve only to shift a problem from State capitals to Washington and to make it easier for those who want to control education to offer mediocre and ineffective solutions to urgent problems.

Summary of table X1Projection of school enrollments to 1970

[blocks in formation]

Source: Freeman, R. A., "School Needs in the Decade Ahead," p. 34.

Mr. BAILEY. The next witness will be Clarence Mitchell, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Mr. Mitchell, will you come forward and identify yourself fully to the reporter and proceed with your testimony.

STATEMENT OF CLARENCE MITCHELL, DIRECTOR, WASHINGTON

BUREAU OF NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE

Mr. MITCHELL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am Clarence Mitchell, director of the Washington Bureau for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. I have a statement which runs two and a half

pages.

If I
may,

Mr. Chairman, I would like to read it.

Mr. BAILEY. That will be fine. You just proceed in your own way making your presentation and we will withhold questions until you have concluded your statement.

Mr. MITCHELL. Mr. Chairman, and members of the subcommittee, I wish to thank you for this opportunity to appear and present testi

5 Burkhardt in "News and Cues," February 1959.

mony on behalf of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

At its national conventions, the NAACP has consistently adopted resolutions calling for safeguards against racial segregation in the expenditure of public funds. This applies to all public funds, whether for education or any other purposes.

I would like to mention two examples of why such protection must be written into the law, if the Federal Government is to avoid getting into the business of underwriting further defiance of the United States Constitution.

Some members of this subcommittee will recall that we have again and again urged that Public Laws 815 and 874 include protection against improper expenditure of the funds provided by these laws. Congress has declined to include such language for a number of reasons, but one of the principal reasons given is that the executive branch can do what is required without additional authority.

The year 1958 offers two illustrations of how the executive branch is tolerating and even encouraging defiance of the law. In Pulaski County, Ark., $800,000 in Federal funds made possible the construction of a public school for children of civilian and military personnel at the Little Rock Air Force Base. When that school opened in September 1958, colored children were excluded and they are still excluded, even though the sole justification for this school is that it is to .serve children whose parents work on the base or are there on military duty.

At last count, this school was equipped to serve approximately 1,200 children. There are about 120 colored children who would be eligible to attend if they were not barred because of race.

This is an example of Federal toleration of illegal use of aid to education funds.

At the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, 21 acres of land were transferred to Huntsville, Ala., school district in 1958. This land is to be used for a segregated elementary school.

I refer to this case as an instance in which the executive branch is encouraging defiance of the law, because it could have been avoided. If the military authorities had kept the land and built a school on it, the present policies of the Department of Defense which require that all children who are eligible be admitted without regard to race, would insure that there would be no segregation.

Thus, those who are responsible for this land transfer have succeeded in overruling the Chief Executive and the Secretary of Defense. Instead of calling a halt to this kind of insubordination, the Department of Defense has attempted to justify it, as follows:

Under the provisions of existing law and policies established by the United States Commissioner of Education, children residing in federally impacted areas must be educated in schools operated and controlled by local public school agencies in accordance with local laws and standards unless the local agency is unable to provide such education.

There is little doubt that this kind of duplicity will continue until Congress, or the courts, eliminate it.

In testimony presented to the 85th Congress, we submitted information on the amount of money the defiant States receive for public

« PreviousContinue »