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ELKS DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, IBPOEW,
OFFICE OF COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION,
Washington, D. C., January 28, 1945. To the Senate Committee on Education and Labor.
STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF SENATE BILL NO. 181
Mr. CHAIRMAN AND GENTLEMEN OF THE COMMITTEE: This statement is presented by William C. Hueston on behalf of the Improved, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the World, a fraternal organization in operation in 40 of the 48 States, embracing more than 3,000 units with a total membership of 300,000 active and reserved. This organization's membership is drawn from the colored citizens of the United States. It has for 20 years conducted an educational department committed to the assistance of indigent students at the college and secondary level and, when possible, schools and students at the primary and intermediate levels. Since 1925, when this effort was inaugurated, the order here represented has provided the means and supported through to college graduation, 406 students. The order has assisted many students in the secondary schools and assisted local and rural schools in paying teachers and repairing school buildings. In many of the States, it has also conducted several surveys for the purpose of ascertaining the needs of the several communities in the public enterprise of operating our school systems. In the pursuance of these efforts, the fraternal order here represented has spent of its own funds more than $400,000.
The foregoing part of this statement is for the purpose of having the committee know that the organization on whose behalf this statement is made, has for many years studied the question which is before it and greatly feels the need of the legislation which this honorable committee has under consideration. The writer of this statement, known as the Elks commissioner of education, has occupied that office for 20 years and, hence, all of the activities above set out, were carried out under his supervision.
In making this general statement, the writer has in mind that experts in the field of education will present and explain to the committee all techincal information required for the full consideration of the bill and will not burden the record with further discussion of the details of the bill, with the exception that he desires to call attention to the fact that his investigation throughout the years warrant the statement that unless this or similar legislation is adopted by Congress at a very early date serious damage will be done to our school system because of the financial inability in several of the States to provide the proper teaching staff and other necessary facilities.
Further, with no intention to criticize either by statement or implication, we make reference to that part of the bill which has to do with the allocation of the funds appropriated in the several States and Territories, wherein separate schools are maintained, and we urge the passage of the proposed legislation with this special provision therein contained. Very respectfully submitted by
W. C. HUESTON,
Benevolent, and Protective Order of the Elks of the World.
THE NATIONAL BAR ASSOCIATION,
January 24, 1945. Mr. HOWARD H. LONG, Chairman, Legislative Committee, American Teachers Association,
Washington, D. C. DEAR MR. LONG: The National Bar Association desires to join with numerous other organizations in endorsing and urging support of Senate bill 181, known as the Federal-aid bill on education. I believe that Senate bill 181 will bring about full and fair educational opportunities for the Negro citizens of the several States in the South where there are glaring inequalities of educational opportunities.
I sincerely trust that the Senate Committee on Labor and Education will give favorable consideration to this far reaching, liberal, and progressive legislation. Very sincerely yours,
C. W. ANDERSON, Jr.
Dr. Long. Now, Mr. Chairman, I wish to present Mrs. Mary Bethune, who is president-emeritus of the Bethune-Cookman College, in Florida, and the president of the National Council of Negro Women.
I know of no one more abundantly capable of reflecting to this committee the attitude of the colored people of the United States with reference to major problems like the one under consideration before you now.
Senator ELLENDER. We will be glad to hear from her. Proceed, Mrs. Bethune.
STATEMENT OF MRS. MARY MCLEOD BETHUNE, PRESIDENT,
NATIONAL COUNCIL OF NEGRO WOMEN
Mrs. BETHUNE. May I repeat that I am Mary McLeod Bethune, founder-president emeritus of Bethune-Cookman College, Daytona Beach, Fla.
For 40 years I have served in the educational development of Negro youth in the South. For 8 years I administered the work of the National Youth Administration to the Negro youth of America. From the experiences of this background I am appearing.
I am also founder-president of the National Council of Negro Women which consists of 32 affiliated organizations, including 18 na-, tional Negro women's organizations and 14 metropolitan councils covering strategic locations throughout America. Our membership is well over 800,000 and represents Negro women in civic, religious, fraternal, business, educational, labor, and political groups. For these groups I now speak.
The National Council of Negro Women strongly urges the passage of Senate 181, a bill “to authorize the appropriation of funds to assist the States and Territories in more adequately financing their systems of public education during emergency, and in reducing the inequalities of educational opportunities through public elementary and secondary schools.”
The passage of this bill would greatly aid the States in raising their educational standards by providing every child with adequate educational opportunities as regards both facilities and instruction. A unique example of the need of the passage of Senate 181 is indicated in tħe State of Mississippi where, during our recent experience with the National Youth Administration, we found that because of the maldistribution of funds for Negro education through an agreement between the State Department of Education and the NYA Administrator funds normally allocated for the high-school student work program in Mississippi were made available for the training of teachers in order to elevate the standards of instruction. We found that there were very, very few high schools for Negroes in the State of Mississippi and that the money that we had available to appropriate to the high schools there could not be used in that direction because there were no Negro high schools to use it.
In a tabulation of the training of Negro teachers in a selected group of 9 counties in Mississippi in 1940 by the State Department of Education, a vivid picture of the low status of the training of the leadership of over a million people in Mississippi was presented. Out of a survey made of the qualifications of the teachers in the public schools, it was found that the majority had only junior and senior high-school education and that there were even some with only a third-, fourth-, fifthand sixth-grade education.
Not only is the passage of Senate 181 of great importance to the Negro people but to Americans generally. This has been amply demonstrated during the war by Selective Service reports which reveal that because of unbelievably low educational standards for Americans in many sections of our Nation thousands of our citizens were declared ineligible for military service. In addition, trends in industry show that in order to qualify for employment, a much higher minimum of education is essential and necessary.
The National Council of Negro Women firmly believes that if this bill in its present form is passed, it will effectively curtail the enormous turn-over of teachers because better economic standards will be provided.
Essentially, the bill provides an added constructive safeguard for not only building but preserving the democracy for which the world is now embattled.
Senator ELLENDER. Are there any questions! Thank you very much.
I desire to state that I have a note here from Maj. Gen. Amos A. Fries, who desires to be heard.
(Discussion off the record.)
Senator Hill. Mr. Chairman, if you are not going to hear General Fries today, I understand that Dr. Richard B. Kennan, formerly executive secretary of the Maine Educational Association, who was born in Massachusetts, and who also taught in Vermont, is in the room and he might, in 4 or 5 minutes, briefly give us a picture of the need for this legislation in New England. We have heard a good deal about the South and other States, and if we could hear a few words from Dr. Kennan at this time I think it might be very helpful.
Senator ELLENDER. All right, Dr. Kennan.
ASSOCIATION Dr. KENNAN, My name is Richard Barnes Kennan, and I am just completing my fifth year with the Maine Teachers' Association and am about to join the staff of the National Education Association.
By the way, to add to what Senator Hill said a moment ago, I have taught in Massachusetts, in New York, in New Jersey, and in Delaware. I have spent 3 years in the State of Vermont and 442 years in the State of Maine.
I would like to say a word about this Northeast section of the country that has been spoken of at some length before this committee.
Of those States that I mentioned, I think Delaware is about the only one that comes near to providing an adequate system of education, and even in that State I have visited schools that were far from what I believe a good American school should be.
Senator Aiken could tell you—or I believe he could-of a school up in the larger of the Brothers Islands outside of Burlington Vt., which I visited not so long ago. The entire grounds for the school were not as large as half the size of this room, they were surrounded by barbed wire, and the building was very small and completely inadequate.
I asked why it couldn't be increased and improved, and they told me that it was a "log school.” That was in the State of Vermont. . It just happened that the school board of that little town had the same idea about teachers, too, because when we tried to place teachers there from the university we found we couldn't get money enough from that school board to attract the better people that we graduated.
Senator AIKEN. I might say, Dr. Kennan, after we reported the bill out in the last session of Congress, even though it was defeated in the Senate finally, that a special session of the Legislature of Vermont was called and did increase the State aid to schools quite materially—not enough, but quite materially.
Dr. KENNAN. That is quite true.
Senator AIKEN. I am sure it was as a result, a direct result, of legislation pending in the Congress.
Dr. KENNAN. That is true, there have been advances in Vermont, and I am proud of the fact that northern New England is advancing, but there are still conditions that exist that aren't what we wish for.
Senator AIKEN. I think we still pay them a little more than Maine does, that is our teachers. [Laughter.]
Dr. KENNAN. Perhaps the clearest way of getting across the situation that exists in Maine is to recite a circumstance that occurred in my work in that State when I was discussing the subject of tenure. I visited a League of Women Voters' meeting in Waterville, Maine, and there discussed tenure and the fact that under it teachers could be dismissed only for immorality, conduct unbecoming a teacher, or failure to obey the reasonable rules of the school board.
Then one of the women present asked me what the teachers in Maine were paid, and I told her what was a fact, that that morning I had picked up a handful of cards at random, and in it were the names of three teachers who were being paid-I didn't call it a salary_$467 a year. One of the ladies said that she knew of a teacher within 10 miles of that city who was being paid $450 a year and was expected to go to summer school every third year.
One old lady in the back corner of the room said, "Huh, in a case. like that they ought to expect a little immorality." '[Laughter.]
Now, gentlemen, in all seriousness, I think that was one of the most. cogent comments that could have been made.
But I do want to bring out one point that happened just this last fall in the third largest city in Maine where 1,500 children were fingerprinted, and each child was asked whether he was interested in going into the teaching profession. Not one of them wanted to go into teaching
The principal of the high school in that city was very much disturbed about the situation, and he called in about 40 of the better girls, better types, the ones who were making the best record in the school, and talked to them and tried to show them what a wonderful profession the teaching profession is, how great a service they could render to the State by becoming teachers, and so forth. Then he said:
Now you can go to normal school here in Maine, and it won't cost you quite as much as to go to collegearen't there some of you who would be interested?
There was a dead silence. Finally one of the brighter girls said: Mr. Chaplin, I want to tell you why I am not interested. I have an aunt who is living in my home. She is 72 years old. She gave her whole life to teaching. She never made more than $20 a week for a short school year. Now she has retired, and she is paid less than $10 a week as a pension by the State of Maine.
I don't want to devote my life to any cause that means that when I reach old age I have got to live on the charity of my friends or my relatives.
And, gentlemen, that isn't a single instance; it is characteristic of what happens to a great many of our teachers in Maine.
It isn't so much a matter of the Northeast; it isn't so much a matter of one State as compared to another. In the State of Massachusetts you could go to Melrose and find fine schools, or you could go down on Cape Cod, where I first did my teaching, and find some very unhappy situations existing. It is a case of concentrated wealth in a few small communities or centers, rather than one State as compared to another, or one region as compared to another.
Most of the antagonism that I have heard toward the bill has come from two principal
sources—and I want to say just one word on that score.
I can understand why certain private groups, private school groups, and those do not include academies such as exist in Vermont and Maine, such as the one at St. Albans, Vt., for example, which is really more of a public school than a private one. I am referring to those of special interest groups and those that deal with wealth, or any other social division as I say, I can understand why such private groups would oppose this bill. They want to grow strong at the expense of the public schools.
But if I never make another statement in my life I believe that this is an important one, that to the extent that public education is held back to the benefit of private education, to that extent intolerance will grow and disunity will grow in this country, and I think that it is critical to the future of our Nation that public education, the melting pot of the people of this country, shall be strengthened.
I have looked at educational conditions in Europe. I was recently told by a prominent cleric that Russia is the only country in the Old World today that is spending more money on education than it is on the war effort. I can't prove that fact. I know the gentleman, and I don't think he would tell me something without being pretty sure of his facts. Be that as it may, we do know that there are 10,000,000 more children in school in Russia today than there were a year and a
We also know that the school population of China has doubled since the beginning of the war. We know that in all the friendly countries of the world there have been greatly increased services to youth.
Yet, in this country we also know that there are at least a million children who either have no teachers, or have unqualified teachers working with them today.
And I personally believe that to that extent our leadership, relative to the other countries of the world, is falling off, and I don't think there is a State in this Union today that doesn't need help in taking care of its teachers and in taking care of its boys and girls. If we are to maintain our position of world leadership, then we must maintain a strong program for the training of our future leaders, and they are the boys and girls of America.
Gentlemen, I thank you.
The committee will stand in recess until 11 o'clock tomorrow morning.
(Whereupon, at 4:25 p. m., the committee recessed until Thursday morning, February 1, 1944, at 11 a. m.)