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The United States has long prided itself on its traditions of free universal education, its literacy record, its high standards of technique and culture. But the time has now come for us to look more closely at the facts, the statistics, and the record. I don't quote many statistics, sir, because a great many have been quoted previously in this testimony. The armed services, defending our country's existence against the threat of Fascist barbarism, have suffered severely from the inadequacies of American education. Selective Service fig. ures, many of which have been cited in earlier testimony before this committee, have demonstrated the glaring need for improvement in the American educational system. Previous witnesses, speaking on behalf of the National Education Association, have estimated that there are 10,000,000 "functionally illiterate” adults in this country, and that at least 2,000,000 of the 5,000,000 men rejected from the armed services would have been acceptable if they had had more education.
The 12 States that in 1920 paid the lowest salaries to teachers found 20 years later that 110 men per thousand could not meet the minimum educational standard of 4 years of schooling. The 12 States that paid the highest salaries in 1920, on the other hand, showed only_23 men per thousand unable to meet this minimum requirement. Lack of education among Americans has seriously weakened our striking power in this war. It can weaken equally seriously our recuperative powers in building the peace.
The America of tomorrow will need not only an alert citizenry, it will need new skills and new techniques, many of which have been partly developed and explored during the war. Yet at the present time, with the tremendous possibilities of post war American development emerging, there are in this country more illiterates than college graduates.
Such facts are shocking in a country which prides itself on democratic standards which can act as an example to other, less progressive countries. The discrepancies among different parts of the United States in regard to educational standards reveal equally appalling figures. The backwardness of the deep South in this respect is well known, and provides one of the most solid reasons for advocating Federal aid to education.
The low level of educational opportunity in the Southern States is in part a reflection of the general poverty of the area, where the traditional differential in wage rates has kept the average taxable income at a low level. Furthermore, the generally inadequate Southern expenditure for education is still further lowered by the discrimination against the Negro, who is relegated to separate schools that are housed in inferior buildings and staffed by teachers paid even lower salaries than those of Southern white teachers.
Fourteen Southern States, for example, fell below the national average of $77.52 spent per child on education in 1941-42, the figure reaching a low of $29.17 in Arkansas. Discrimination against the Negro population is demonstrated by the smaller expenditures made per pupil in Negro schools, a situation true of 17 Southern States where separate white and Negro facilities are provided. In Louisiana, for example, an annual sum of $61.21 is spent on each white child, while only $12.62 a year is spent on the Negro child.
The inferior educational facilities and standards of the Southern States have a harmful effect, not only upon the Southern people, but upon the entire life of the Nation. The citizens of each State are also cítizens of the entire Union. Particularly in times of crisis the quality of education for citizenship in one area can seriously impinge upon the social, cultural, and economic status of the other States. The statement of Mr. Kermit Eby submitted for the national CIO has indicated the extent to which Americans habitually migrate from State to State and emphasizes some of the dangers which disparate degrees of education obtaining in different areas constitute for the whole Nation and its people. The seriousness of the dangers has been brought out especially in connection with the difficulty of recruiting trained, or even trainable, personnel for the armed services and for American war industry.
The backwardness of certain areas cannot in most instances be remedied exclusively from State funds but must be met by Federal subsidies. Members of this committee during the present hearings have pointed out that the wealth of certain States, particularly in the South and West, is drained off and accumulates in the hands of great corporations located principally in the North and East. The Northeastern States, which are able to draw upon some of these funds for purposes of taxation, have also a responsibility to support a Federal program designed to lift the educational standards of the poorer sections of our country.
Opponents of Federal aid to education frequently rest their argument upon the alleged “danger" of Federal interference in the right of the States to organize and direct their own educational programs. In this connection, it is of interest that the Federal Government has not been charged with unjustifiable interference in the internal affairs of the many land-grant colleges. The present bill, more
, over, contains specific provisions calculated to prevent any possibility of Federal action which might impinge upon genuine States' rights.
Opponents of Federal aid, ignoring the complexity and interrelationships of current American economic life which have been mentioned by witnesses as well as by members of this committee, have charged that it is "unfair” to allow “rich” States to be taxed in order that the educational facilities of poorer States may be improved. The argument is reminiscent of those advanced by early proponents of universal compulsory education. Conservative newspapers in the early nineteenth century maintained that it was unfair to allow the children of the poor, who paid few direct taxes, to be educated at the expense of wealthy property holders, who could always afford to give their own children schooling appropriate to their means. Such arguments quite obviously concentrate upon the benefits which may be acquired by a privileged few rather than upon the general welfare of the Nation and the great mass of its citizens.
In the course of this war against Fascism, intolerance, racism, and organized brutality, the leaders of the armed services have discovered that the men and women under their command were frequently not only technically ill-equipped for modern war but also were dangerously ill-informed as to the meaning and origins of the war and the background of our allies. Misconceptions of such topics have led
to the introduction of orientation programs designed to eliminate this potential drag upon the war effort and the morale of the armed services. Our fighting men would have been more adequately prepared if they had all brought with them from our schools at least some of the information which the Army has included in its orientation courses.
Previous witnesses before this committee have spoken of the ingenuity and thoroughness of educational practices in Fascist countries like Germany and Japan. I am referring particularly to the witnesses on Monday and Tuesday speaking for the National Education Association. Such education, based on lies, distortions, and calculated brutalization of the human mind and spirit, can attain a certain temporary efficiency but can never equal the solidity, strength, and fruitfulness of genuinely democratic education. The American, British, and Russian soldiers who have defeated Fascist troops at Bastogne, El Alamein, and Stalingrad have owed part of their power to the respect for the human spirit which, however imperfectly practiced, forms an integral part of the thinking of this country, of Britain, and of the Soviet Union.
The army of men and women who will wage the peace and their children who will benefit from it, deserve the finest and most complete education which a democratic America can provide. President Philip Murray of the CIO has stated that, the CIO is vitally concerned with education
The CIO is just as interested in this rightreferring to the President's economic Bill of Rightsas we are in full employment, an economy of plenty, and a standard of living higher than we have ever attained before. The education our children get must prepare them for this bright American future.
Mr. Murray's statement, and the educational program of the CIO, are simply the culmination of a long series of steps in the history of American labor. The first free public schools were established only through the efforts of delegations of organized "artisans and mechanics” in the early nineteenth century. Succeeding generations of organized labor, throughout the last hundred years, have carried on consistently the demand of the American common men and women that their children and all American children be afforded a good free public education. The CIO today is continuing that tradition.
The general need to provide equality of opportunity for a good education to all our children and to all adult Americans is the principal purpose of the Federal aid bill S. 181. This cannot be done without expanding all our educational facilities. Above all, the economic interests of our teachers must be safeguarded, their social welfare secured, and their cultural development assured. This is one major interest of the national teachers division of the State, County, and Municipal Workers of America, CIO. Any discussion of the problem of education which neglects the central role of the teachers themselves is inevitably misleading.
I think that is of interest, in view of the fact that the section of S. 181 on the emergency appropriation of $200,000,000 deals exclusively with salaries as being the most urgent emergency in the present situation.
Previous witnesses testifying before this committee have presented evidence showing the dangerously low salaries which are generally
paid to teachers. Charts and statistics have been furnished to the committee which provide irrefutable proof of the fact that many of our teachers are living under substandard economic conditions. Teachers themselves appearing before this committee have stated clearly that during the current period of increased job opportunities at increased wages, the teacher continues in his post frequently only due to an intense devotion to the profession, and a deeply felt desire to continue to contribute to the education of America's growing generation. The statistics presented to this committee on the question of increased turn-over and the number of inexperienced teachers indicate with startling clarity how little inducement there is today for a person of some education and ambition to enter the teaching profession.
This situation is unquestionably disheartening and discouraging to teachers as people. It implies a weakening, even in some areas a potential break-down, in our whole educational system. Moreover, it threatens the future economie prosperity of the Nation itself.
Our goal of full production after the war can be obtained only if we succeed in maintaining the production level of approximately $200,000,000,000 achieved in 1914. The maintenance of this level depends, in highly practical terms, upon our making sure that the American people have enough money in their pockets to buy the goods produced.
Today some 900,000 teachers are in the employ of public education and thousands of other persons are involved in maintaining and organizing the $12,000,000,000 worth of public educational buildings. If any group of American workers of this size is allowed, or rather forced, to remain at substandard or mere subsistence levels, our entire economic structure will be jeopardized.
The National Education Association has pointed out that the average purchasing power of teachers' salaries in 1942 worked out to a sum of only $1,260 in prewar dollars. In the year 1913–44, some 5 percent of all teachers received less than $600 a year. In Mississippi, one of the poorer States, more than half of all public teachers received salaries of less than $600 in the school year 1943-44. Various cost-of-living and budget surveys made both by private and Government agencies during the last few years furnish convincing evidence that such salary levels cannot provide an adequate standard of living, even for a single person. And other studies have shown that nearly half of all American teachers are responsible for the full support of at least one other person.
Teachers have acquired an increase in annual wages since the beginning of the war of approximately 10 percent. An increase as small as this, is, according to all authorities, insufficient to match the increase in living costs since the beginning of the war. Even industrial workers and farmers, though their annual income has not kept pace with wartime inflation, have been in a less unfavorable position than the teachers and their fellow workers in other divisions of State and local government.
Two logical consequences flow from this state of affairs. In the first place, unless this shocking under payment of teachers is cor
rected, there will be a group of almost a million wage earners unable to contribute enough to the income stream to support full postwar production. Aside from their own personal discomfort, insecurity, and suffering, the teachers can become a dangerous menace to a healthy postwar American economy.
Secondly, the low level of teachers' pay is reflected in shortages of teachers, overcrowded classrooms, lowered quality of instruction, higher turn-over, and larger numbers of inexperienced teachers.
Last summer the National Education Association warned that the United States faced the greatest teacher shortage in its history. These warnings have been fulfilled. Experienced teachers have left their jobs, inexperienced teachers have been appointed, enrollment in teacher training and normal schools has dropped drastically.
On the other hand, the changes brought about by the war have contributed toward reversing a 40-year trend and have brought about a sharp increase in child labor and a sharp decrease in school attendance. High-school attendance, which reached a peak of 7,244,000 in 1940, has since declined by more than 1,000,000. It is difficulty to say to what extent this decline can be attributed to crowded classrooms, overworked teachers, and lower quality of instruction. The immediate connection between the teacher's economic status and the effectiveness of our school system can be seen, at any rate, in the number of teachers who have left their classrooms to go into jobs which would more adequately support them and their families.
The American labor movement, which has consistently interested itself in good, free public education, sees clearly the intimate connection between the quality of education and the economic well-being of the teachers themselves. The national teachers division of my union maintains that good education on equal terms for all Americans is inseparable from the attainment of good salaries, good working conditions, and a happy and full life for American teachers. It is for this reason that this division is interested in bringing teachers into the organized labor movement. It is for this reason that the State, county, and municipal workers of the CIO support the principle of Federal aid, and in particular the bill now before this committee, S. 181.
Senator ELLENDER. Are there any questions?
Senator ELLENDER. Doctor, step forward, please. I understand that Mrs. Mary Bethune was to be present also ?
Dr. LONG. She is here.
Senator ELLENDER. Let her come forward also. Dr. Long, please give your full name to the reporter, and your representation.
Dr. Loxg. Howard H. Long, chairman, Legislative Committee of the American Teachers Association, and chairman, Committee on Public Policy, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
Senator ELLENDER. Have you a prepared statement, Dr. Long?