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FEDERAL ASSISTANCE TO INCREASE PUBLIC
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 1955
UNITED STATES SENATE,
Washington, D.O. The committee met, pursuant to recess, at 10:10 a. m., in the Old Supreme Court Chamber, United States Capitol Building, Senator Lister Hill (chairman) presiding:
Present: Senators Hill, Douglas, Lehman, McNamara, Smith of New Jersey, Goldwater, and Allott.
Also present: Stewart E. McClure, staff director; Roy E. James, minority staff director; Michael J. Bernstein and John S. Forsythe, professional staff members.
Chairman Hill. The committee will kindly come to order.
Our first witness this morning will be Dr. Edgar Fuller, executive secretary, Council of Chief State School Officers, who will be accompanied by Dr. Madaline Remmlein.
Dr. Fuller, will you and Dr. Remmlein come around, please, sir.
STATEMENT OF EDGAR FULLER, EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, COUNCIL
OF CHIEF STATE SCHOOL OFFICERS; ACCOMPANIED BY MADALINE REMMLEIN, RESEARCH DIVISION, NEA
Mr. FULLER. Mr. Chairman, I would like to introduce Dr. Madaline Remmlein to the committee. Dr. Remmlein is a doctor of philosophy. She does the legal work for the research division of NEA. She is also a lawyer, licensed to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Chairman HILL. We are delighted to have you, Doctor.
Mr. FULLER. In addition to all those things, though, Mr. Chairman, she is president of the National Organization on Legal Problems in Education, which is a group of law professors and educational administrators from all over the country who are in an association studying the problems of education law.
Chairman HILL. I think, Doctor, you have told us of her many fine qualifications and also that she is a very exceptional woman; isn't that true?
Mr. FULLER. I am sure that is true.
Chairman HILL. We are delighted to have both you and the doctor here, and you may proceed in your own way, Mr. Fuller.
Mr. FULLER. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee; I am Edgar Fuller, executive secretary of the Council of Chief State School Officers since 1948. Previous to then, I was a superintendent of schools, junior college president, university teacher of educational administration, and State commissioner of education in New Hampshire. My experience also includes 5 years as an educational official of the Federal Government.
I represent the Chief State School Officers and in general the State education officials who will have heavy administrative responsibilities in the States under any of the bills to authorize Federal assistance for construction of public elementary and secondary schools now before this committee.
The council has long favored such legislation. Its most recent resolution, approved in June 1954, reads as follows:
We call to the attention of the public the rapidly increasing enrollments in our schools and the need for adequate school facilities. We urge the people to utilize the resources of local districts, States, and the Federal Government to provide financing necessary to construct the physical facilities so badly needed.
We believe there can be and should be Federal assistance for school construction on a local-State-Federal partnership basis which will
(1) Make possible school construction where it is most badly needed, adding as soon as possible many classrooms to those built solely through local and State efforts.
(2) Maintain local and State initiative and control in education, with State administration and full State accountability for Federal funds under high prudential standards.
(3) Place education on a par with such services as highways, hospitals, and rehabilitation in regard to Federal funds for physical facilities, thus giving education equal treatment in competition for local, State and Federal funds.
We seek the best way to achieve these ends and thus serve the children of the country who cannot speak for themselves.
We agree in general with the President's message on education sent to Congress on February 8, 1955.
Mr. Chairman, the chief State school officers, along with professional educators generally, are of all political faiths. We regard education as an indispensable professional service which undergirds the American system of life and society. As a council we believe education should be nonpartisan and, at the worst, bipartisan. We are always pleased when prominent officials of either major political party, or other citizens, assert the indispensability of universal education to our country,
The message President Eisenhower sent to the Congress on February 8 was the most extensive special message on the subject ever sent to Congress by any President. All of us, I am certain, agree with the assertions of principle and intention in that message. For instance, we are in full accord with his statement that:
A distinguishing characteristic of our Nation-and a great strength-is the development of our institutions within the concept of individual worth and dig. nity. Our schools are among the guardians of that principle. Consequently, and deliberately, their control and support throughout our history have been, and are, a State and local responsibility.
The American idea of universal public education was conceived as necessary in a society dedicated to the principles of individual freedom, equality and selfgovernment. A necessary corollary is that public schools must always reflect the character and aspirations of the people of the community.
Mr. Chairman, the President's emphasis on local control of education reflects precisely the principles of the chief state school officers. They administer several federally-connected programs in education for the school districts in their respective States in accord with these principles. They distribute from State funds 40 percent of the entire cost of public education to local districts under these principles, an amount which as now reached $312 billion annually. As a result of this great administrative experience, no other group of State officials or educational administrators in the United States has quite as thorough knowledge of what constitutes Federal control of education or of what constitutes local and State autonomy in education.
The chief State school officers are adamantly opposed to Federal control of education. They are the people who better than any others know what Federal control of education is and can identify it when it occurs. I am certain they would be unanimous in their agreement with the President's statement and implication that there must not be Federal control of educational programs.
Mr. Chairman, we are also completely in accord with the President in the opening statement of his message in which he proposes
* * * a plan of Federal cooperation with the States, designed to give our school children as quickly as possible the classrooms they must have. This is what the President wants to do. This is what we want to do. There are bills before your committee, Mr. Chairman, which would do it, but S. 968 is not one of them.
On the contrary, the authors of the present bill have given to us 39 pages of intricate, complex procedures, with more Federal controls than have been seen in any seriously considered bill in recent years, with a pittance of Federal funds and with provisions which forecast long delays. Many parts of this bill are not in accord with the general policies of the chief State school officers nor indeed with the principles and purposes set forth by the President himself in his message to the Congress.
We have analyzed S. 968 carefully. We want to preserve whatever parts of it may be beneficial to education and sound in principle. With your permission, then, I should like to refer separately to each of the four major titles and present an evaluation of each. Then I should like to present evidence from the States that S. 968 in its major provisions is inadequate and ill-advised and that other legislation pending before the Congress will achieve the President's stated objectives much more quickly, effectively and with much less Federal control of education in the States.
Title I. Federal purchase of obligations of school districts with marginal credit:
According to information supplied by the United States Commissioner of Education, the total value of school district bonds sold at an interest rate above 31/8 percent last year was about $76 million out of a total of approximately $2 billion of public-school bonds issued and sold. Most of the high interest rate bonds came from a few limited areas. But title I does suggest that the Federal Government, without actually contributing any Federal funds to local-school districts or to the States, might well be of some assistance to a few school districts with marginal credit in marketing their school bonds at reasonable rates.
We have two suggestions to make in regard to this title: The first is that the interest rate might well be somewhat lower than the 348 percent mentioned by the President or the rate to be set by the Secretary of the Treasury, plus one-half percent, which this bill provides. We see no reason why the Federal Government might not purchase the bonds of public school districts at the interest rate which is the actual cost to the Government for borrowing the money. As this bill is written, the Federal Government will eventually make a profit at the expense of the school districts of the country most in need.
Our second suggestion is that there are Federal controls in title I which are objectionable. For instance, in section 104 (c), the bill provides that the educational and financial situation in any local-school district seeking to take advantage of title I shall be certified by the State educational agency to the Commissioner of Education in considerable detail. Then it adds that such certification shall include
* * such additional information as may be necessary to make a showing, satisfactory to the Commissioner, that such local educational agency is financially able to pay such obligations as they become due. This is greater Federal discretion and control in regard to the fiscal affairs of local-school districts than is desirable.
Another illustration of excessive Federal discretionary controls is found in section 106 (c), giving the Commissioner the power to:
* * * include in any contract or instrument made pursuant to this title such other covenants, conditions, or provisions as he may deem necessary to assure payment of obligations purchased under this title.
This, too, Mr. Chairman, vests greater authority in a Federal official than we think necessary or desirable.
Senator SMITH. May I interrupt there just a minute. How would you suggest, Doctor, changing that so it would not be too great a control by the Federal Government? Of course, there should be some conditions, I suppose, imposed, if the Federal Government is going to purchase some of these bonds. They ought to make some inquiry as to the background of the bonds, and so forth.
Mr. FULLER. I would say, Senator Smith, that if the Federal Government is going to make a judgment concerning the ability of a localschool district to meet its obligations, that it ought to be willing to take the certification of the State agency for education of that State, and that if further security for the Federal Government is necessary, that it ought to be a guaranty by the State government itself for all of its school districts.
Under this provision, Senator Smith, there would be General Accounting Office people, tax attorneys, estimaters of building values, and a whole horde of Federal officials in local school districts. We don't want them there
Senator SMITH. I don't want them there.
Mr. FULLER (continuing). And I am afraid they would be there, under this title.
Senator SMITH. I am interested in the suggestion you have just made. There might be some way by which the State can stand this kind of thing, so when it came to a showdown the State would be responsible.
Mr. FULLER. I think, Senator, the elimination of these words that are underlined and the substitution in these clauses of the guaranty