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Mr. STEFAN (interposing). Are the conditions in the District of Columbia satisfactory, so far as education is concerned, in relation to Negro education?
Mr. HOUSTON. So far as a separate system can be satisfactory.
Mr. HOUSTON. Except that we always have a battle. Usually we have recalcitrant influence in the House, which has to be corrected in the Senate. Ordinarily the Negroes in the District of Columbia get approximately the same appropriation in proportion to their numerical population as the whites.
Mr. STEFAN. I believe you would get under this bill about $855,000 in addition to what you are getting now under the present set-up? Mr. HOUSTON. Yes, sir. I have not computed it.
Mr. STEFAN. Would that help conditions here? Do they need that much more from the Federal appropriation?
Mr. HOUSTON. The answer to that is yes, they do need that much more, because in many instances-I happened to be on the board of education here for 2 years before I moved away, and we were constantly then up against the proposition of expanding facilities. You see, the Government is constantly enlarging its facilities and bringing in new people here, and that is constantly making a great drain upon the school facilities. In addition to that, the Government has opened up the schools, is my understanding-is intending to open up the Washington school so that people can come in from the outside. I cannot speak now for the last 2 or 3 years.
Mr. STEFAN. We have in round numbers 135,000 Negro population in the District of Columbia. Is that a great increase, say, in 10 years, on the average?
Mr. HOUSTON. Not for Negroes.
Mr. STEFAN. Are they increasing?
Mr. HOUSTON. They are increasing to some extent, but the more rapid increase is in the industrial cities in the North. You see, there are no industries here to take care of a large mass of unskilled labor. Mr. STEFAN. But they do come here to seek these advantages in education?
Mr. HOUSTON. For elementary schools I should say not in great numbers, because you have Virginia and Maryland nearby, which, although they are far beneath the District of Columbia in their treatment of Negroes, nevertheless, absorb and tend to take care of their own populations. They come to some extent in the high schools, but they come in by the subterfuge of living with a relative who is a householder in the District of Columbia, and therefore you see there is no way to check up on those figures. That applies to whites as well as colored who come for the high-school training in the outlying districts, but they do it that way so you cannot check it.
Mr. STEFAN. But the educational system here is ideal for the Negro students, is it not?
Mr. HOUSTON, Yes; it is ideal so far as the segregated system can be in which you have a vertical division of education with every level, practically, and the Negroes getting approximately what is a fair share as compared with the same share that the white fellow is getting. I think both whites and Negroes need more education here in the District of Columbia, but you ask me as to what is being given,
and the answer is they are getting a fair share, but it is a question of constant vigilance, even as to this bill now.
Mr. STEFAN. Even in the District of Columbia?
Mr. HOUSTON. Even in the District of Columbia; yes, sir.
Mr. BARRY. Do you consider our schooling facilities for Negroes in New York State adequate?
Mr. HOUSTON. The answer to that is that in the smaller towns you have no particular problem. In New York City there are greater abuses, which were brought out by the mayor's commission on the conditions in Harlem, which followed the riot in March 1935. Those conditions, however, are shared by what you might call "neglected areas", that is to say, the area in which the Negroes live, on account of the high cost of living, on account of the fact that their economic level is low, causes them to overcrowd, to fill up in the older buildings, and you have a condition there which is paralleled, say, on the East Side. So that in these schools you do have very terrible and depressing conditions. Two new schools have just been appropriated for by the municipal council in New York.
Mr. BARRY. These "neglected areas" apply to both Negroes and whites, does it not?
Mr. HOUSTON. Yes.
Mr. BARRY. There is no particular discrimination there?
Mr. HOUSTON. There is a slight one, sir. I mean to say the Negro suffers from the handicap of being poor and also from the handicap of being black, and the whole American scene is such that there is some prejudice against him all over the country, which reflects itself in public treatment. But there is not the same degree that you have
Mr. BARRY. Do not the compulsory educational laws apply equally to Negroes?
Mr. HOUSTON. Of course.
Mr. BARRY. He has to go to school in New York.
Mr. HOUSTON. Yes. And I also want to say this: That to us educational opportunity means not only the ability to go to school but also the ability to teach in school.
Mr. BARRY. The standards apply equally to the Negro school as to the white school, and teachers who teach in the New York City schools must meet certain educational standards.
Mr. HOUSTON. I did not mean that. I was going to give New York due credit by saying that in New York the Negro teachers are absorbed into the whole system. The answer is yes, but the discrimination comes in to this extent-I will give you just a little instance of it: Among teachers, Harlem is regarded as a punishment assignment.
Mr. BARRY. I mean that teachers, whether white or colored, must meet certain standards before they are allowed to teach in our system.
Mr. HOUSTON. That is quite true.
Mr. BARRY. And no matter how they personally feel about any situation, it is, I think, irrelevant. They may regard the particular assignment you refer to like a policeman does an assignment to the outskirts of the city which he does not like.
Mr. HOUSTON. I do not think so, because-well, you have punishment beats for policemen, but you also have punishment schools for teachers, and you must remember that that is reflected in the relation between the teacher and his pupil.
Mr. BARRY. That is human nature.
Mr. HOUSTON. But you asked me about discrimination, and to answer that officially there is no discrimination in New York. Mr. BARRY. That is all I want to ask.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Mr. Houston.
Mr. GIVEN. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, the next witness comes from the State of Michigan, Mr. Earl R. Laing, of Detroit.
STATEMENT OF EARL R. LAING, CHAIRMAN, LEGISLATIVE COMMISSION FOR MICHIGAN FOR THE NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
Mr. LAING. Mr. Chairman, Congressman Dondero, of Michigan, and members of this committee, first of all I want to pay my compliments to this committee. I am about ready to go back to Michigan, and I am going back with the feeling that this bill has been given very fair and open-minded consideration. For the sake of your time and mine I am going to omit the talk that I had planned to give, because I feel that it is more or less boiled down to the basic philosophy underlying the principles of this bill and what it is to provide for. I will submit it for the record.
We have here with us four men, three besides myself, and our plan was to divide our little talk up, giving each man a certain phase of our problem, and as I said before, owing to the lack of time I have asked these gentlemen to confine their remarks to as few words as possible, because in just a short time we want to take the train. At this time it gives me great pleasure to introduce the president of the Michigan Education Association, Mr. David Van Buskirk, who is superintendent of schools at Marshall, Mich., who will present the State phase of our problem.
(Mr. Laing submitted the following statement :)
To the Committee on Education, House of Representatives, United States Congress:
The great philosopher, St. Thomas, once said, "All life is a triumph of activity over inerita, of initiative force over indeterminateness, and the greater the triumph the higher the form of life." This is the underlying philosophy of our democracy. Reasonable opportunity for initiative and a guaranteed freedom to pursue and search for truth.
The function of education in a democracy has been liberalized and broadened by constitutional enactments and political practices until today its obligation to society rests upon a much broader base than ever before.
It is to this committee and to the other honorable Members of the House of Representatives that the common people of America must come, as they have always come, for a sympathetic ear and an understanding heart. The public schools of America have been designed from the beginning to give to the sons and daughters of the common man a fair and reasonable and unhampered opportunity to develop their natural talents.
Now the American common man in this great Nation and in this great democracy is confronted with an old evil. History repeats itself. Wealth is again concentrated in the hands of a few citizens. Here again we need leadership, we need another Horace Mann to father the cause of free public education.
Horace Mann just 100 years ago gave up a lucrative law practice and his seat in the Massachusetts Legislature to devote his whole time and his noble heart and unselfish soul to the cause of education for the common child. Then, as now, there were the natural enemies among the wealthy classes who did not believe in paying taxes for the support of schools for other people's children. Now, again, a way must be found whereby these children, the future citizens, the future legislators, and the future standard bearers of this Republic may be reached and nourished on the wholesome milk of democratic principles. It is not being done, my friends. It is being neglected. The local visible property tax has collapsed. The individual States are unable to adequately finance the schools. The National Government has an obligation here. The youth of this country do not belong to any particular State. They belong to the United States. One Nation and one flag. The migration in this country from State to State with no questions asked, no qualifications for entrance is ample proof of this fact.
I do not believe that the true-hearted citizens of this country are or should look upon this problem solely as a selfish economic one. We are interested in and concerned with the children wherever they may happen to reside. The children of Wisconsin or North Carolina today are the citizens of California and Michigan tomorrow. I know this is an old story but it is true and if true it is the core of our problem.
Washington once said, "The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps as deeply, as finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people."
Arthur H. Compton, famous scientist and Nobel prize winner, recently asked, "Who is there who does not fear for the individual's sovereign rights in religion, science, and education"
Our forefathers said religion, morality, and knowledge are necessary for good government. In a committee of Congress similar to this, with Nathan Dane, of Massachusetts, as chairman, a forward-looking ordinance was created and introduced into Congress where in 2 days it was made law. This was in 1787. I, as a son of the Northwest Territory, received my educational opportunity partly because of the wise and unselfish provisions of this law. I hope I may be able to repay at least a part of the debt I owe to these legislators. I believe a broadening of the scope of our public schools and an opportunity for the teachers of this Nation to have more facilities with which to do their work is the only enduring bulwark against the political dictatorships which threaten the world with violence.
Educational opportunity for the youth of the Nation is a natural birthright and should be made as near uniform as possible. Respectfully submitted.
EARL R. LAING,
Chairman Legislative Commission for Michigan for the
STATEMENT OF DAVID VAN BUSKIRK, SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS, HASTINGS, MICH.
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, to make the record clear, I am superintendent of schools at Hastings, Mich., not Marshall.
I represent the Michigan Education Association, which consists of some 33,000 teachers. These teachers are rural teachers, village teachers, city teachers, university teachers. They teach in the grades, all the way from nursery schools through the university.
Our association has endorsed this bill We have endorse dit in the usual way, which is endorsement by the representatives of various parts of the State coming together and making a study of the bill and giving their endorsement publicly through the Educational Journal. We have received no objections from any groups or any individuals against that endorsement.
Michigan felt the depression very early and very keenly, because of our dependence on the automobile industry, furniture manufacture, and tourists. We found that we depended very largely on the buying power of the whole Nation. Our early industries, mining and lumber, have ceased to be important industries. We might use those as examples of how our State has been exploited and the money taken out of the State to a large extent. That, however, is past history and does not apply to the present problem.
The schools felt the burden of depression along with the rest of the industries of Michigan. There came times when schools had to be closed, when we had to call upon the State and the Federal Government for assistance to keep them open. These efforts to help the schools succeeded only in part. Our personnel was reduced, our instruction materials were curtailed, and they have not yet returned to normal.
We probably suffered more in the upkeep and in the building of new buildings than in any other part of our program. Upkeep, of course, is always necessary. New buildings were necessary because of the influx of population from other States, and also because of the increased enrollment, especially in the high-school grades.
In 1930-31, the State of Michigan, as a whole, spent on elementary and secondary education $109,000,000. Of that amount $80,000,000 came from local property taxes, $24,000,000 from the primary school interest fund, and $5,000,000 from miscellaneous sources. At that time there were about 1,100,000 children enrolled in those schools.
In 1935-36 we received $19,500,000 in new State aid; we received $46,300,000 in local property taxes; we received $15,000,000 in primary school interest funds, and $3,000,000 from miscellaneous sources, making in all about $84,000,000. We had in 1935-36 about $24,000,000 less for the support of the schools than in 1930–31.
Now, Michigan has attempted to solve the problem. In spite of the fact that we, as other States, found that property was carrying too much of the burden and resorted to the 15-mill limitation on property, and in spite of the fact that some cities that were not included in that constitutional amendment chose to come under that amendment and so made it necessary to divide their 15 mills in three parts, one part for the city, one part for the county, and one part for the school district, yet we have made great efforts to overcome it. The State passed what was known as the "State aid bill" for schools appropriating $38,000,000, which included the primary money as well. Eleven percent of this was to go for equalization of the cost of education all over the State. Part of it was to go to pay tuition for rural students to come in to village and city high schools. The State guaranteed to every school district after they had raised two and a half mills for school purposes that it would furnish the difference between the two and a half mills and $48 for each elementary school pupil, and $65 for each high-school pupil. This year the legislature is debating a bill which will grant $10,000,000 more for school aid. In this bill 13 percent will be used for equalization. We think that there is a very strong probability that that bill will be passed, yet that will leave us still $14,000,000 behind the amount that we had in 1930-31.