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We see three reasons for Federal aid. First, to help the State in equalization. As I have told you, the equalization did not prove to be sufficient in the old bill. Thirteen percent is being asked in this new bill, so that the rural children and children in cities that are not industrial cities will not be at a disadvantage. In spite of all the efforts that we have made so far our State superintendent says in his report for 1936 that the chances are about even that a rural child will have the opportunity to attend high school. So that we need to make that chance still better.
While our average salary for last year was $1,300, outside of the city of Detroit it was $900. We still need aid for transportation of rural schools so that we may consolidate. We still have in Michigan 6,700 school districts.
The second reason that we need aid is for aid in building. One of my colleagues will state further some of the reasons for new buildings. I may say that in June 1936, 108 cities and villages reported that they needed $16,250,000 for school buildings within the next 5 years. Many of them were willing to assume one-third of the cost. Of course, that is difficult because we are not allowed to bond for any longer time than 5 years. Then we must vote by a two-thirds majority to raise the tax rate for that 5 years. Cities or any taxing unit that has 25 percent delinquency in its taxes may not bond at all.
On another survey taken in March 1937 for the next 5 years, 105 cities outside of the city of Detroit gave as their building needs for the next 5 years $20,746,500. Of that they could furnish about four and a half million dollars.
The third reason that we need aid is one that was mentioned by one of the gentlemen appearing this morning before this committee, and that is as an aid for teacher retirement. As you know, teachers as a body do not come under the Social Security Act. That fine provision for labor does not extend to State and local employees. In Michigan the teachers have carried a retirement fund of their own for 10 years. We have found that the assessments on the teachers are not sufficient to carry that successfully. We are asking the legislature for aid. As time goes on, we will need more aid. I think no finer thing could be done for the teaching body than to provide for a decent and honorable retirement at the end of their career.
Now, I may say for the benefit of some of the States that are in the same situation as we are, that while we pay 4.12 percent of the Federal taxes and would receive back in this act 3.67 percent, or about 89 cents on every dollar, we feel that this committee can act as the collection agency for the whole country in the matter of excise taxes on automobiles, perhaps that 11 cents may be accounted for in that way, and we really have a way of getting that taxation that is not possible under the present laws of Michigan.
I would like to submit for the record the evidence of building needs; also the evidence concerning teachers' salaries.
Mr. FLANNERY. What is your maximum compulsory age attendance?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Well, we have two laws that are concerned with school attendance, the labor law and the compulsory attendance law. The compulsory attendance law requires that all pupils attend school until they have finished the eighth grade or have reached the
age of 16. The labor law affects high schools, where a district maintains a high school, and compels attendance until 16. In some cities where continuation schools are part of the school system, that continues to the age of 18.
Mr. FLANNERY. What do you figure the average daily attendance of your school population is?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. I think we figure
Mr. FLANNERY (interposing). I mean, are those laws enforced pretty generally?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Yes; they are well enforced. We are above 90 percent in attendance. I think we range first in the study of attendance the countrywide.
Mr. MASON. Since you put on that 12-percent tax limitation on the property tax, what other taxes have you gathered in to take the place of that?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. I should have mentioned that. We have a 3-percent sales tax, and most of the school money comes from that, although it is not earmarked for schools. Our aid comes from the general funds.
Mr. MASON. Is that the only new tax that you have put on to take the place of this?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Other than the profits from the State sale of liquor and the various liquor taxes.
Mr. MASON. You have liquor taxes in Michigan?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Yes, sir.
Mr. MASON. Do you have a State income tax?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. We have not. Our constitutional lawyers say the constitution will not permit anything but a uniform income
Mr. FLANNERY. What proportion of your school population has parochial education, do you know, approximately?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. I would say about 10 percent. That is purely an approximation.
Mr. STEFAN. What is the gas tax in Michigan?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. The gas tax is 3 cents. That is all used for roads.
Mr. STEFAN. You do not divert that for anything else?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. We have not found it possible to do that.
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Yes.
The CHAIRMAN. And this gasoline tax, that is apportioned to the schools?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. No; there is no gas tax going to the schools. The CHAIRMAN. And the taxes that have been collected for school purposes since the State has reduced the property tax have not been. sufficient to take up the slack?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. No, sir; they have not. The sales tax is not earmarked for schools.
The CHAIRMAN. Well, Michigan is in the same position as Ohio. Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Very much.
The CHAIRMAN. They have reduced the school tax by popular vote. Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Yes, sir; all taxes. Not just school taxes, but all taxes.
Mr. DONDERO. That is, all taxes particularly on on real estate, because they found that real estate was bearing about 85 percent of the burden.
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. And it was impossible for it to bear any more or any longer. That was the reason for the change.
I may say that our school taxes in some districts went as high as 45 mills. They ranged, I think, from 3 to 45 at one time.
Mr. FLETCHER. What is the lowest pay received by teachers in your State?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. That would be hard to say. Last year many counties averaged for their rural teachers between $45 and $50 per month for 8 and 9 months.
Mr. FLETCHER. Would you say that the rural children do not have an even chance of advancing to high school?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Yes, sir.
Mr. FLETCHER. Why is that so?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Well, we have a great number of rural schools, and some of them do not have a high school available. If they have a high school available, transportation is a great problem.
Mr. FLETCHER. You mean to say by that, it is an even chance that half the rural children will never have an opportunity, under the present situation, to get to high school?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. That is right. That is the statement of our State superintendent of public instruction in his report for 1936.
Mr. FLETCHER. Is it not true, then, that in your State, when a boy or a girl goes to apply for a position, the first question they ask him is, "Are you a graduate of a high school?"
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. I think it is true there as it is all over the country-possibly more so.
Mr. FLETCHER. Then, at the very start, on that issue alone, half of your rural children will be handicapped in getting a job.
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. There is no question about that.
Mr. COLE. Do you have any figures showing actually that half of the rural children are not getting a high-school education?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. I have no figures except the statement of the State superintendent of public instruction, and I believe that those are founded on his own statistics.
The CHAIRMAN. In connection with the question propounded to you by Mr. Fletcher, that these children are not obtaining the proper schooling, that is because the State itself has reduced their appropriation by popular vote? Is that not correct?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. I do not think that that is entirely true, because I think the same condition prevailed before the reduction of ne taxes.
The CHAIRMAN. Notwithstanding that that condition prevails, your State cut down appropriations $24,000,000 by popular vote? is that correct?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Cut it down that much, yes; the amount.
The CHAIRMAN. Now, will you tell the committee how are we going to judge whether the people of Michigan and the people of Ohio and other communities that have actually by their own vote said that they were spending too much money on schools-how is this committee going to act in overriding their wishes by appropriations from the Federal Government?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. I believe, Mr. Chairman, that what they did was to say that the tax on real estate was too much for real estate to bear, but they did not say that too much money was being spent on schools.
The CHAIRMAN. Why did they cut out the schools and not cut out some other Government activity?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. But they did cut dodn on all Government agencies.
Mr. DONDERO. He said they cut all taxes. That was not a cut on school taxes alone.
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Oh, no; indeed.
Mr. KITCHENS. Mr. Fitzgerald has asked two or three questions regarding attendance at schools. Do you know whether or not the attendance in your schools in Michigan has been cut down to any extent, due to the poverty of the people, to inability to buy necessary books and shoes and clothing, in order to go to school?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. I do not believe it was cut down on account of books, because our law provides that boards of education must supply those to children of indigent parents. The other reason is, I believe the attendance was cut down.
Mr. KITCHENS. In my State we have recently passed a constitutional amendment requiring the State to furnish every child, black and white, necessary books with which to go to school.
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Any school district may, do that in Michigan. Mr. KITCHENS. And that will increase the attendance of school children in the State of Arkansas considerably.
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Yes; I think it will.
Mr. DONDERO. I think the witness testified that we stand at the head of the list for attendance in the Nation. Our attendance is way above 90 percent.
Mr. BOYER. May I ask, did you say that you were trying to further consolidation in your State?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Yes; we are.
Mr. BOYER. And with that will come the necessity of transporting the children?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Yes, sir.
Mr. BOYER. That will be quite an expense?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Yes, sir.
Mr. BOYER. And does that detract from the education or add to the education of the children? That is, does it, in your judgment, make a better system of schools for the children, for the people in general?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Very much so. We are working on the basis of forming community units rather than governmental divisions to take in those school districts that naturally come into an already formed school district, such as a village or city, and make two consolidations around those as the center.
Mr. BOYER. I asked the question because we walk to school in our State.
Mr. MASON. May I add, for the benefit of the record, to clear this up, that when schools are consolidated, while there is an added expense for transportation, that added expense is more than offset by the efficiency of the school and the cheaper cost of running the school. So that it is not an added expense in toto.
Mr. BOYER. May I ask if there is objection among the property owners, the taxpayers, to the consolidation, to any great extent, in your State?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. The objections, we believe, are mostly from the ones who hold school offices, school-district officials.
Mr. BOYER. And not from the property owners, the taxpayers? Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. No, sir; not so much.
Mr. DONDERO. In fact, it is submitted to the vote of the taxpayers whether they want to consolidate or not, is it not?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Yes; they must vote.
Mr. COLE. Can you reconcile the two assertions made here in regard to the State of Michigan? First, they are acclaimed as being the highest in attendance, 90 percent or more of your children of school age attending school-can you reconcile that statement with the other statement that only 50 percent of your rural children go to high school? One is 90 percent, almost unanimous, and still, in the next breath you say that only half of the rural children go to high school.
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. I think the reason for your confusion is that our attendance is based on the percentage of those who are in membership who attend, not the ones who are on the census who attend. Mr. MASON. I do not think he made that clear.
Mr. COLE. Do they sign membership cards making them subject to compulsory education?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. I think we are speaking of two different things. What you want is the number of people who come under the compulsory school law and who really attend school?
Mr. COLE. Yes.
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. And I am speaking of the people who are in membership in schools.
Mr. COLE. What do you mean by "in membership"?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Who have enrolled and who attend school. Of course, the figure of 50 percent-that is easily explained, because they are not covered by the compulsory school law; they do not live in a district where a high school is located, therefore they are not covered by the compulsory school law.
Mr. FLANNERY. And does that 90-percent attendance apply to those who are enrolled or those who should be enrolled?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Those who are enrolled.
Mr. FLANNERY. What percentage of those who should be enrolled are enrolled?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. I cannot give you the figures as to how the compulsory school law is enforced.
Mr. FLANNERY. That is what I want to know.
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. That varies. I think an approximation would be 90 percent. It should be 100 percent, of course, to be perfect. Mr. FLANNERY. Ninety percent of those who should be enrolled are enrolled?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. Yes, sir.
Mr. FLANNERY. And then 90 percent of the enrolled attend?
Mr. FLANNERY. And are those authenticated statistics or is that your impression?
Mr. VAN BUSKIRK. That is my approximation.