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West Virginia thinks she has done this; and yet, many of the essentials of a real program for equal and adequate educational advantages are unsatisfied in our State.
In the fiscal year of 1929-30 there was available for school purposes in West Virginia, $29,389,000. There is available for the present fiscal year 1936-37, $24,446,000, a decrease over the former year of almost $5,000,000. With this reduced budget the schools are teaching 50,000 additional pupils, the average term has been increased 1 month, and teachers' qualifications have greatly improved.
When school services increase during a period of decreasing revenues it is clear that certain items of expense must be drastically cut. That is what has happened in West Virginia. Teachers' salaries have been reduced. For many of the high-school teachers the reduction amounts to as much as 30 percent, and the average reduction for all teachers and principals, is approximately 13 percent below the 1929-30 level.
With the items for relief that call for an increase in the State appropriations of $4,000,000, the leaders and the tax payers of the State insist that the State has reached the maximum amount that it can provide for school purposes. With that maximum amount arrived at and with the revenues from local properties limited by the constitutional tax amendment, the schools find themselves in an impasse. With average daily attendance increased each year by approximately 6,000 and with more demands upon the schools for service, they are finding and will continue to find it impossible to keep up their present program on the amount of money available.
The amount of aid from the Federal Government proposed by the HarrisonBlack-Fletcher bill would not fully restore the revenues for the schools in the State to the basis of 1929-30 but it would, under the present organization with economic and wise expenditure, provide reasonable and fairly adequate school opportunities. The additional aid provided by this bill would permit the State to increase the salaries of its teachers holding degrees materially beyond the present low maximum of $1,170. The aid would assist the State in its consolidation program, in its purpose in securing better prepared corps of teachers, and in its strides toward providing equal educational opportunities for all the children of the State.
STATEMENT SUBMITTED BY W. H. S. WHITE, PRESIDENT, SHEPHERD STATE TEACHERS COLLEGE, SHEPHERDSTOWN, W. Va., REPRESENTING THE WEST VIRGINIA STATE EDUCATION ASSOCIATION
In addition to all that has been said to the committee in behalf of the bill. appropriating money from the Federal Treasury to aid the States in their program of public education, I should like to emphasize particularly the situation as regards teachers and the teaching profession. Of course, I confine myself to the situation in West Virginia although it is well known that practically the same conditions exist to a greater or less extent in many States of the Union. Like most rural mountain States, West Virginia's development in elementary education has been slow. Until the past decade the term was from 4 to 6 months and the scale of salaries exceedingly low.
With the beginning of the development of public high schools in the State with fixed standards required for classification, the secondary-school program made rapid progress, and until the beginning of the present decade set standards were being held for the personnel of the high schools. Under the district system, however, communities were increasing their tax rates to such an extent that when the depression came they were so impoverished that the system collapsed under its own weight.
Then our people, struggling to maintain their cherished educational system set about to tear away completely the old system and build a new one complete from the foundation. That foundation has been laid on a solid basis, but the wreckage of the old is still strewn along the way. In a sense the highschool teachers whose salary had been adequate were reduced to the level of the whole teaching staff which on the whole amounted to a 30-percent decrease. I have talked with high-school teachers recently who are unable to maintain their standards in colleges and universities because they are losing the graduate credit which they earned 5 years ago and which is canceled when a 5-year period elapsed without a continuance of work. These teachers have been unable to complete their work and still find themselves in this economic situa
tion. They are struggling to renew their certificates with undergraduate courses wherever they may do it at little or no expense rather than to go on with work on the graduate level toward the completion of higher degrees.
Also we have witnessed lately the interviewing of young men trained in the fields of chemistry and physics by industrial corporations. We are convinced that under the present economic situation of teachers the best of those being prepared will be drawn into other work and their services lost to the teaching profession. This is a matter that must give pause to all of us interested in maintaining the best direction for the children of our State and Nation.
West Virginia has within its borders the same need for equalizing educational opportunities as exists among the different States of the Nation. There are counties in our mountain section with barely enough to support a minimum educational program if they should use all their taxes for the purpose, while there are other counties with sufficient wealth to maintain a better system with less than half their tax money. The age-old principle we believe thoroughly to be sound; namely, that of getting the money where the money exists and expending it for the needs of the people wherever such needs may exist.
Finally the matter of our greatest hope lies with the Congress and others in the leadership in this country. From the beginning of our system of free institutions and our free Government, intangible needs of education have always come from above down and never from below nor will it ever. No African savage has ever been called to the practice of the arts or literature or the preaching of the Christian gospel. The teaching forces of West Virginia together with the great body of parent-teacher membership, women's clubs, the American Legion, labor organizations, and the leading representatives of our entire citizenship unite in urging the Congress to come to the aid of the most fundamental need of our free country.
Mr. RANDOLPH. Now, if I may take one moment of the committee's time, and only one moment, I would like to say that for 6 years previous to becoming a member of Congress in 1932 I was an instructor in Davis and Elkins College, Elkins, W. Va. I believe in the best possible aid being given to the school children of the nation. I believe that under this legislation, we are helping. In my own congressional district, in the rural sections particularly, we do not adequately school the boys and girls.
I do want to say too that in the State of West Virginia we have attempted to put our house in order, and any lack of proper schooling facilities within the State at the present time is not due to any disregard of the conditions which are presented to our State and its people but only because we have been unable, up until the present time, to get sufficient funds to carry on our program. With the indulgence of the committee for just one moment I should like to make this statement. During the economic depression, the burden of property taxes became unbearable to the people of West Virginia. As a result they voted into their constitution a tax limitation and a classification of property amendment which drastically reduced the maximum rates which may be levied on property. The reduction to schools from local revenues was approximately 60 percent. The State was then faced with the problem of revising completely its revenue system or its school system, or both. Mr. Ray Power, who is the assistant State superintendent of schools, as I have said, has brought to my attention that both of these things have been done. The need for a larger local unit for school taxation purposes was apparent. All the 398 independent and magisterial school districts were abolished, and we set up in West Virginia 55 county school districts. The fiscal effect of such a law was that of the segregation of the income from the property tax that was abolished, the equalizing effect of the county-wide levy being substituted for the results of
the district levy, which had accentuated greatly the local differences in wealth.
I should like to say that in an effort to solve our problems in West Virginia the State has increased its State aid to local schools from two millions of dollars to approximately $13,800,000. State aid has been increased this year, but probably four or five counties will not be able to even finance a minimum term, due to the increases in average daily attendance and the higher teacher qualifications.
In conclusion I should like to say-and this is part of the statement of Mr. Power-the amount of aid from the Federal Government proposed by the Harrison-Black-Fletcher bill would not fully restore the revenues for the schools in the State of West Virginia to the basis of 1929 and 1930, but it would, under the present organization, with economic and wise expenditures, provide reasonably and fairly adequate school opportunties. The additional aid provided by this bill would permit the States to increase the salaries of its teachers holding degrees materially beyond the present low maximum in West Virginia of $1,170 a year.
Mr. MASON. That is for degree teachers?
Mr. RANDOLPH. That is for degree teachers. And it is, Mr. Mason, a low salary, I believe. The aid would assist the States in this consolidation program which is under way, in getting a better corps of teachers and in equalizing the educational opportunities within the various counties of West Virginia, for all of our children, which would do for West Virginia what, as I understand, you would do under this bill, equalize the educational opportunties for the children of America.
In conclusion, gentlemen of the committee, I am a believer in national defense, but I do feel that today, with the Government of the United States spending at the present time $120,000,000 in one single Navy appropriation item for but two battleships costing $60,000,000 each, which are to serve in our national defense, but it should be remembered that we have a peaceful defense program through education, keeping sinister and un-American forces from destroying institutions within our own country, and certainly the funds applied by the provisions of the Harrison-Black-Fletcher bill would be, I believe, applicable to our situation. I trust that my statement will perhaps be of assistance to the committee, not for any specific thing that I have said but simply in a broad way to let the committee know that I believe in such legislation.
I do not want to see any unfairness in the legislation. I do not want to see the Negro groups given any type of legislation that will not be fair to them. I believe the members of the committee and all of us want the equalization to prevail throughout the entire picture. I thank the committee. [Applause.]
The CHAIRMAN. While we had intended to come back at 1:30, I understand some of the members object to returning so soon, therefore, we will receses until 2 o'clock.
(Whereupon, at 12:30 p. m., the committee recessed until 2 p. m., this day.)
The committee reconvened, pursuant to recess at 2 p. m., Hon. René L. DeRouen presiding.
Mr. DEROUEN. The committee will please come to order. We will proceed with the consideration of H. R. 5962.
Mr. HALL. I will present Congressman Terry, of Arkansas, who will make a brief statement.
STATEMENT OF HON. DAVID D. TERRY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF ARKANSAS
Mr. TERRY. Mr. Chairman, I just want to come before the committee to make a very brief statement. I realize that there are many witnesses to be heard who are in a better position than I am to go into the details of the bill, but I do want to compliment this committee upon the hearings that have been afforded the proponents of this measure. I feel that there is a growing demand in Congress and there is a growing sentiment in Congress for legislation of this character. I feel that the men on this committee are doing a very fine and splendid thing to consider this bill and I hope they will report it out favorably. It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, in this day when the democracies of the world are undergoing a test by fire, if we may call it that, that the one hope of democracy, as I see it, is a high level of educational standards. It seems to me that if America is going to carry out the fine traditions of our people that we should have Federal aid to the schools of the country. I feel that these men and women who are coming here today are doing a patriotic thing. Usually when witnesses come before committees of Congress they come with the idea of selfish interests, the idea of getting some money for their own pockets, and those men and women who are coming here today before this committee are coming not for themselves but for the children of the Nation and I just want to say that in my opinion the hope of this country lies in the hands of these people and those who follow after them in the profession.
It seems to me, Mr. Chairman, that with the State lines being obliterated and with the trailers taking the population of one part of the country to the others, that that is an indication and an argument in favor of Federal aid. It is just a small straw showing the direction of the wind, that there are not real States lines any more, and it seems to me that the National Government, the Nation, should assume to carry out this obligation that it has to raise the standards of citizenship over the whole country.
STATEMENT OF HON. FRANCIS H. CASE, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA
Mr. HALL. Congressman Case, of South Dakota, will make a statement, if the committee please.
Mr. CASE. Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, I want the record to show that South Dakota is also interested in education. A number of years ago Gen. William H. Beadle fathered a law in South Dakota under which the school lands of the State were protected from sale for less than $10 an acre. For many years, the protected income from our school lands, coupled with generous budgets, gave us a real public-school system.
The report of the Great Plains Committee, recently published, contains an interesting table which shows that the illiteracy of
native-born whites in South Dakota was lower than any other State in the area-two-tenths of 1 percent. In South Dakota towns our largest buildings are the schoolhouses.
Yet the conditions of farming the past few years have been such that our school revenues have not only been impaired but practically destroyed in many districts. Taxes are not being paid, and our teachers are underpaid. In some cases they are offered warrants which cannot be sold at all, and in other cases the warrants are salable only at a great discount.
We know in South Dakota that buildings do not make a school: teachers make a school. So we have tried to maintain a high standard of teacher training and are trying to raise that. This is impossible to do unless we can get Federal aid for the support of teachers' salaries. You can't expect, and we can't expect teachers of proper preparation to keep on with their profession on salaries of $35 and $45 a month, and even $65 a month, paid in warrants that have to be sold at discounts of from 20 to 40 percent, if at all.
I could give you figures to show what South Dakota buys from the other sections of the country, and could prove how we contribute to general prosperity. But it should suffice to say that in a country of universal suffrage there is no substitute for universal education and that any impairment of equal educational opportunities for the children is a national liability. Many of our teachers have heard of the Harrison-King-Fletcher bill and they are keeping on in their profession in the hope that this bill will be passed by this Congress. I would extend my remarks by including a few letters from some of them:
Representative FRANCIS CASE,
Washington, D. C.
ATHBOY PUBLIC SCHOOL, Athboy, S. Dak., February 12, 1937.
DEAR MR. CASE: My school position here in west-river South Dakota does not pay even a bare subsistence. On the average, my year's wages amount to less than a dollar per day-such starvation wages for a college graduate who has the highest teaching credential that is granted in the State of South Dakota. I am not getting sufficient return to properly feed and clothe myself or to take necessary health precautions. It is an actual fact that lack of health attention is undermining my efficiency as a teacher. Before I educated myself in the teaching profession, I worked as a sheep herder, and I am inclined to believe that I must return to sheep herding to make myself a decent living.
I am telling you this not in a spirit of criticism or to find fault with the financial system of our public schools but that you may use such facts in your propagandizing for a better living for teachers.
We will appreciate very much anything that you can do for the advancement of education, particularly in the field of teacher's salaries, because certainly no school can be more efficient than the teacher.
Very truly yours,
NISLAND, S. DAK., March 29, 1937.
Congressman FRANCIS CASE,
Washington, D. C.
DEAR SIR: I am writing you as a teacher of one of the distressed districts of Butte County, S. Dak.
I have experienced quite a little difficulty in getting my warrants cashed at a 20-percent discount. With teachers' salaries already much too low, it works a real hardship upon all and especially those who strive to keep up their professional interests.