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SCHOOL SUPPORT ACT OF 1959
MONDAY, MARCH 2, 1959
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES,
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met at 10:15 a.m., pursuant to recess, in room 429, House Office Building, Hon. Cleveland M. Bailey (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Present: Representatives Bailey, Udall, Brademas, and Frelinghuysen.
Staff members present: Fred C. Hussey, clerk, full committee; Melvin W. Sneed, minority clerk; Russell C. Derrickson, investigator, full committee; and Robert E. McCord, clerk, subcommittee.
Mr. BAILEY. The subcommittee will be in order.
The Chair recognizes a member of the staff for the purpose of inserting material in the record.
Mr. McCORD. Mr. Chairman, we have a statement by Albert Whitehouse, director, Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO. It has been submitted and requested that it be made a part of the record of the hearing
Mr. BAILEY. Without objection, it will be accepted for inclusion in the record.
(The statement referred to follows:) STATEMENT OF ALBERT WHITEHOUSE, DIRECTOR, INDUSTRIAL UNION DEPARTMENT,
AFL-CIO This statement is filed with the General Education Subcommittee by Albert Whitehouse, director, Industrial Union Department, AFL-CIO. This department represents the interests of more than 6 million industrial workers in 68 AFL-CIO unions, while carrying out the policies of the parent organization.
There is danger in talking so much about the crisis in education that we get used to the crisis and do nothing about it as a consequence. Nonetheless, the stakes are so high, and the opportunities so great, that the Industrial Union Department welcomes the chance to state our views on this problem and to urge upon you a course of action. For action we must have.
There is only one thing that is not needed in American education, and that is further generalized study of the problem. Any fifth-grade child who reads an occasional newspaper can identify the basic problems as clearly as any team of learned educators laboring for a year. The problems are simply lack of adequately trained and adequately paid teachers, lack of classroom space, and lack of opportunity for higher education. These are by no means the only problems confronting American education; they are, however, the ones that are identified repeatedly in studies and statements on education and that cry out for action now.
You have before you a whole series of bills dealing with some phase of education. Some of these go straight to the heart of these basic problems; others are roundabout if not downright devious. We are concerned that you keep before you the basic problems and deal directly and forcefully with these problems, casting aside those that are fainthearted and phony.
The National Defense Education Act of 1958 reaffirmed an important principle : That the responsibility of the Federal Government does not stop with the issuing of reports on classroom shortages and low teacher salaries. That act did, however, leave some important unfinished business which this Congress should take in hand at once. The most important of these items of unfinished business are school construction, teacher salaries, and scholarship aid for higher education.
SOME BASIC ESSENTIALS
Before talking about specific proposals, I would like to touch briefly on some basic essentials in American education that represent a fair consensus of established belief in this country. The first is the idea of local and State control over and primary responsibility for education. All of these proposals before this committee recognize this home truth, despite some technicolor language from the opponents of all Federal aid about the Federal octopus and the camel's nose in the tent. A second basic essential is the idea of matching grants from State and local sources where feasible or at least the idea of relating Federal grants in some way to the effort being made by States and localities to pull a fair share of their weight.
But with these sound precepts must go a realistic plan to deal with extreme problems. And to say that States and localities have primary responsibility for education is not to say that the responsibility is their exclusively. Suppose, for example, that schoolchildren in some communities are packed into congested, unsanitary, and unsafe schools. Must they suffer unassisted because their community has reached its debt limit or even because their parents have listened overmuch to talk about a balanced budget and have voted down further borrowing? This is visiting the sins of the fathers upon the children with a vengeance.
The test of political craftsmanship is to draft legislation which clings fast to that which is good and yet which recognizes a Federal responsibility and has within it room to deal with the extreme case. Fortunately, you have before you bills which do just that.
Several of the bills before you enter this problem at two important points school construction and teacher salaries. I should like to speak to the question of classrooms first. Our Government's own Office of Education has documented the classroom shortage so thoroughly that the figures are as familiar to you as your office phone numbers. I do not intend to rehash them or to attempt technical testimony for which I am not qualified, but if there is anyone left who is not convinced on this point, I refer him to the Congressional Quarterly for the week ending January 30, 1959, for a clear and up-to-date summary. This report is significant not only for the light it sheds on the current status of classroom shortages but more importantly for its demonstration that the situation is not getting better-and this in spite of heroic efforts on the part of some communities and States to deal with this aspect of education.
There are those who say that we have overdone our emphasis on school buildings to a point where we have developed an “edifice complex." They say we should concentrate on improving the quality of education and not the number of buildings. Without contradicting the need for quality in education—who is against quality? I would like to point out that the number of available classrooms is directly related to class size which in turn is directly related to the quality of teaching possible.
The Murray-Metcalf bill (S. 2 and H.R. 22), the Javits bill (S. 863), and the McNamara bill (S. 8) meet this problem head on. Though varying in proposed duration, they all embody the principle of encouraging State and local effortthe Javits and McNamara bills by dollar-for-dollar matching and the MurrayMetcalf bill by relating grants to the effort being made by the State to meet its educational needs. Furthermore, they encourage allocation within each State on the basis of efforts being put forth within the local communities. However, they do not foreclose assistance in those instances where health, safety, and dire need seem to outweigh the other considerations.
Overall, 135,000 classrooms need to be built to meet the present shortage, and additional classrooms will be needed each year, at least until the postwar bulge in the birth rate has been assimilated into the school system. But these aggregate figures of need obscure the vast differences from one school district to another. Some districts with high per capital income have been able to pretty well come abreast of their classroom requirements. Unfortunately, some of the districts where the need is greatest have been unable to meet it because the tax base just did not exist.
The Murray-Metcalf distribution formula gets at this problem by dividing funds among the States on the basis of school-age population and within the individual States to school districts “which in terms of the economic resources available to them are least able to finance the cost of needed school facilities." The Javits bill's distribution formula takes account of both school-age population in each Ştate and the income per child of school age in each State. Within each State, it provides for distribution to districts on the basis of financial resources, effort, and urgency of need as measured by overcrowding and use of unsafe and obsolete facilities.
TEACHER SALARIES The Murray-Metcalf and Javits bills go also to the question of teacher salaries. Once again, the documentation of the need for salary supplementation is ample and I will not burden you with more of it. You know that the average teacher makes less than $4,800 a year, with a median salary much lower, in spite of long and costly professsional training that must be continued year after year. You know how many teachers leave after a year or two of teaching solely in order to make a decent living. You know that responsible and respected educators—the latest was Robert M. Hutchins of the Fund for the Republic-have advocated doubling teacher salaries and were not relegated to the lunatic fringe for such proposals. This is a measure of the distance there is to go in raising teacher salaries. Neither of these bills proposes specific salary scales or increases, and no conceivable expenditure under either could reach more than a small fraction of the amount needed. Both relate Federal grants to the effort being made by the States and encourage distribution within the State partly on the basis of effort as well as need.
It is idle to talk to the need for improvement in education when teacher salaries stand at their present level. No amount of classroom space can ever do more than provide the physical environment for learning. The teacher is the one the only one who can make the learning process meaningful. How do we rate the teacher's contribution?
Here the values of our society are laid bare for all to see. Do we value education as we say we do? Or is it just on a par with alcohol, tobacco, and advertising, as our expenditures in recent years would seem to indicate? The Federal Government must raise its voice on this question now.
States and communities, as they always have, will come along and carry by far the heaviest part of the load. But action by the Federal Government to supplement salaries will give a clear lead in this important area. It will build the morale of teachers and will make them realize that their Government in Washington places their living standards at least on a par with test tubes and Bunsen burners.
The third area I want to talk about is scholarships. In the administration scheme of things, they are suffering from the “second-year slump.” Two years ago the administration proposed school construction; last year it proposed nothing. Last year it proposed scholarships—at least as a talking point. This year, silence.
If there is any area in which most proposals have been halfhearted and inadequate, it is in this area of scholarship aid for higher education. Many tears have been shed in recent years for the neglect of the gifted child, that 2 or 3 percent up near the genius level. Certainly we should see that these children have ample opportunity to work up to their capacities. But what kind of misplaced concern is it that worries over lost opportunities for a handful of children in primary and secondary school and looks away when each year as many as 100,000 high school graduates in the upper 25 percent of their high school classes cannot go on to college for financial reasons?i And there is an equivalent number of equally talented students who drop out of high school each year for reasons that are certainly at least partly financial. This is an irretrievable loss of valuable gifts on a scale that is truly shocking.
1 Studies reported by U.S. Office of Education, January 1958.
We should be talking about a plan for an education bill of rights that insures that no child who is intellectually able and who is willing to study shall have his higher education denied or interrupted because of the income of his parents. We should be establishing the principle that ability, and not ability to pay, shall be the passport to educational opportunity.
The major breakthroughs in education in this country came with free and public elementary education in the first half of the 19th century and with compulsory attendance into high school later in that century. The labor movement played a role in both of these major accomplishments. We say now that it is time for another breakthrough; that our society should now assume responsibility for educating our young people as far as their gifts will carry them.
Why should it be assumed that public responsibility for education stops with age 16 or 17? We were glad to hear President Eisenhower encourage study and development of junior colleges, which will enable many students to take advantage of higher education without incurring high away-from-home living costs. Beyond the high school, opportunity which really means something must go further than the provision of State universities. It must encompass more techni. cal schools, junior colleges, and community colleges, and it must provide cash scholarships for the most able of those students who must continue their studies away from home.
Loans have been put forward as a solution of the problem. The present loan provisions of the National Defense Education Act of 1958 provide up to $1,000 a year in loans, with interest to start after graduation. To those who have studied the figures on income of college graduates compared with income of high school graduates, this might look like a good investment.
But how does it look to an able high school senior who would like to go to college put is wavering because of pressure from home to contribute something to the family's support or at least to become self-supporting? He must look forward, at this critical juncture in his life, to 4 years without substantial steady income and an indebtedness at the end of that time of $4,000. A recent Ford Foundation study estimated higher education costs at $1,500 a year at public colleges and $2,000 at private colleges, so even with some income he would need the full sum of the loan. For the children of most industrial workers, no matter how able, costs like this make higher education virtually impossible.
It should be obvious that many topnotch students, out of a sense of family obligation, will not put this kind of a mortgage on their future income. The loss is not merely theirs; it is a loss to American society of the kind that cannot be made up.
Scholarships should be the first line of defense against this siphoning off of undeveloped talent, with loans as a secondary line of defense. The Humphrey bill would start with 46,000 scholarships of $1,000 and would increase in the fourth year to a maximum of 184,000 of $1,000 each. This bill is the first one that deals with this problem on the scale it deserves.
It is AFL-CIO policy that scholarship aid should not be limited to science, language, and mathematics, or to any specialized field, and we would like to reaffirm our support for this position. Education in social science and the humanities is every bit as important as physical science to the full and good life, and the temporary upsurge of interest in technology should not obscure this fundamental fact. Some of the scholarship bills propose limiting awards to special fields, and while supporting the scholarship idea, we would oppose the limiting clauses.
We would like to say a few words about the administration school bill. This is the bill that was almost kept home from school by its parents, who obviously let it out with great reluctance. It was tardy when it arrived, and I am sure when the teacher looked at it, she sent it to the foot of the class.
The best thing that can be said about the bill is that it is useless. The worst thing that can be said is that it is a deliberate diversionary tactic to take your eyes off the main problems of education. It was billed in the press before it even appeared as an attempt to get a bill, any kind of bill, to forestall the other known pieces of legislation that dealt straightforwardly with construction, salaries, and scholarships. It was put in on the theory that "you can't beat something with nothing,” but it is about as close to nothing as you can get.
Let's look at this shabby and unworthy bill. Take the question of construction of primary and secondary schools. If a school district could prove a need for new classrooms, it could float a bond issue, and the State and Federal Governments
jointly would provide the funds for both debt service and amortization beyond what the school district could finance. But is this a grant on the part of the Federal Government or is it a loan? The Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, who had the unenviable task of explaining the bill to this subcommittee, was quoted in the New York Times as saying he was confident that “many of these districts will never repay anything.” Is this saying that he is confident that the school districts will not honor their obligations, or that no obligation really exists?
In either case, the whole approach lacks integrity. It scarcely promotes civic honesty to say, with a broad wink, "Here's loan, boys, but we are confident that you will not repay." But we probably have already paid more attention to this proposal than it deserves.
If this kind of Federal support is wanted, the Javits bill, in its titles II and III, does the job directly and with infinitely less confusion.
OTHER PROBLEMS FOR STUDY
In saying that these basic problems of school construction, teacher salaries, and opportunity for higher education do not need further study before action is taken, we do not mean to imply that we know all we need to know about all of our educational problems. By no means is this true. There are other facets of education that need continuous and intensive study. We will point to some of these in a minute.
But first we think it needs to be stated without reservation that our system of free public education represents the most magnificent attempt at large-scale democratic education in the world's history and needs no apologies from anyone. Particularly, we owe a debt of gratitude to those teachers and administrators who have labored so hard and so well to sustain this system-all the while they have been subjected to a running fire of criticism from those who in the guise of pursuing "quality" in education would establish a narrow elite in the Nation. Crticism we should welcome, provided that it recognizes our basic democratic goal of education for all as far as their gifts will carry them.
It is significant that President Emeritus Conant, of Harvard, in his study of secondary school education, concluded that the system is basically sound and needs changes only in matters of detail. And in the course of his study, he learned to respect vocational education which in his liberal ivory tower de had been conditioned to disdain.
Yes, there are matters that need improvement and well-directed studies will point the way to these improvements. The curriculm needs to be studied to see that it is up to the heightened demands made upon it today. The teachertraining institutions need constant upgrading to meet the demands upon them.
Particularly in the area of school financing some fresh approaches are indicated. Many communities are groaning under a tax system which relies disproportionately on real property taxes in a day when real wealth is so frequently held in other forms. Such a system carries the financial burden over to retired persons who own their homes but whose incomes have declined drastically.
Perhaps we need to redefine a "community" for educational purposes. We have recently seen how Governors Ribicoff, Rockefeller, and Meyner met with Mayor Wagner to discuss problems common to their separate political jurisdictions. In education, we have seen numerous examples of the well off fleeing to suburban sanctuaries where they buy better public education for their children and shirk their financial obligation to the large metropolitan community whose economic organization provides the source of their income. An obsessive preoccupation with “local responsibility,” narrowly defined, overlooks these other, equally compelling responsibilities.
None of these problems can be solved in a day; indeed by their very nature they will never be fully laid to rest. But we must strive constantly to meet them, or else admit that our society is incapable of the effort needed to sustain it.
Meanwhile, you have it in your power to move positively toward a solution of immediate, pressing demands on our educational system. Build classrooms, raise teacher salaries, offer scholarships to the able, and look to tomorrow's problems. This is the stuff of which progress is made.