CONGRESSIONAL RECORD - SENATE
MAY 25, 1961
Mr. MUSKIE. Mr. President, shortly the Senate will vote on one of the most important measures to come before it during this session of Congress. In fact, the institution with which the proposed legislation is concerned is the most fundamental. in our democracy, the foundation of our national life.
The factor which has made Federal support for education so critical is education's role in the power struggle for survival of our free world.
I can best express the role in the form of a syllogism:
First. Education is an instrument for democracy.
Second. Education is also an instrument for communism.
Third. Education, then, is indispensable to both systems.
Fourth. Since they are competing systems, contending for supremacy, education is an instrument for power.
Our survival as a society will depend on our collective capability to meet the challenge of this power struggle; and the capability of the individual citizen to meet these demands will depend on the kind of education he or she receives.
We have reached the point where crippling amendments to the bill have been defeated. Some of these amendments raised questions which should be decided as separate issues, as, for example, loans to private schools.
Others, such as the elimination of the use of Federal funds for teachers' salaries, would have seriously damaged attempts to meet a most critical need.
The present bill retains and emphasizes local control and local decision on how the money will be used.
The bill should also go a long way toward equalizing the resources of States and inevitably raise minimum standards of education to a much higher level than would otherwise be the case. It extends the principle which already applies at the State level, in Maine, where we provide general purpose State aid for schools in local communities.
Because I am most familiar with the educational problems in Maine, I am acutely aware of its need for an adequate program of Federal aid.
According to Warren G. Hill, commissioner of education for the State of Maine, the State needs 576 elementary classrooms and 317 secondary classrooms.
This does not include 240 substandard elementary classrooms and 110 substandard secondary classrooms. The cost of providing the needed additional classrooms would be $15,579,217. Replacing ,he 350 substandard classrooms would require expenditures of one-third more.
Maine has serious problems in attracting qualified teachers. This year the salaries of teachers are $1,100 below the national average. A total of 53.3 percent of our teachers do not have at least bachelors' degree from an institution of higher learning. Also, more than 60 percent of our teachers are 45 years of age. This means that in the coming years we will have a serious replacement problem.
This is the situation, even though during the past 10 years Maine has ranked third among the 50 States in percentage increase in teacher's salaries.
The people of Maine are doing the best they can, even making serious sacrifices, to provide funds for education.
The per capita income of Maine residents compared with the other States is 8th, but the percentage of income being spent by our people for State and local taxes ranks them 17th. We are well above the national average.
With adverse economic conditions Maine and with the State having other pressing governmental needs beyond education, it is impossible for Maine citizens to make a substantially greater contribution in funds for schools. State and local tax sources are stretched to the breaking point.
If the Senate votes to approve the bill before us today, Maine will receive $211 per school-age pupil, or a total of $5,175,297. This will be just enough during the 3-year life of the bill, to cover the cost of the classroom need of Maine.
Education is too basic a need for all the people of the country to be dependent upon what each State can do individually, particularly when we realize the differences in wealth from State to State.
Our goal in this society is to give each man the opportunity to develop his own capabilities, serve the state, and remain free.
We are pledged to equality of opportunity. This does not mean that each individual is entitled to, or needs, a university education. It does mean that each child is entitled to the chance to develop his skills and realize his potential as an individual.
Equal opportunity implies the elimination of geographic location or economic circumstances as barriers to education. So long as we depend on the unequal resources of the States and communities to bear the brunt of the cost of financing education, educational opportunity will be unequal. Because a State is financially distressed is no reason to penalize its children from becoming educated. In fact, the inability to educate its youth may put a State in the position of perpetuating its economic problems. I believe it my duty to do all in my power to help to provide the opportunity to the people of the Nation for self-development to the limits of their capabilities and for the strengthening of our society. Therefore, I support the bill.
I regard it as the most important and vital single piece of proposed legislation confronting us at this session of Congress.