Letter to the Chairman, House Committee on Education and Labor, on Federal Aid to Education.
Dear Chairman Lesinski:
I have received your letter of March first, and the enclosed resolution with respect to Federal aid to education that was adopted by the Committee on Education and Labor.
The text of that resolution as transmitted to me is as follows:
"WHEREAS the Committee on Education and Labor of the House of Representatives in no way wants to report legislation that might lead to Federal Control of the schools of America; and
"WHEREAS the United States Office of Education is a department within the Federal Security Agency and this committee has had no assurance from the President that the Commissioner of Education will have, by Presidential authorization, sole jurisdiction over the administration and conduct of all provisions of any act on Education that might be reported out of committee without interference from the Administrator of the Federal Security Agency or any of his appointed assistants; and "WHEREAS this Committee requests this assurance in all good faith and sincerity so that in no manner in the years to come could their consideration of Federal Aid to Education be construed to mean that they supported legislation that might lead to Federal Control of the schools of America; Therefore be it
"RESOLVED, That the Committee on Education and Labor of the House of Representatives will not report any bills pertaining to Federal Aid to the Public Schools of America until the President of the United States submits a statement to said Committee clarifying the authority and re-defining the duties of the United States Commissioner of Education with regard to all functions of the administration of school laws--and that the President inform the Federal Security Administrator of this clarification."
According to this resolution, the Committee on Education and Labor is opposed to Federal control of the schools of America. I, too, am opposed to Federal control of the schools. I have so stated many times, and that continues to be my position. The governments of the states, the schools of America, the citizens who have responsibility for the welfare of our educational system are also opposed to Federal control of the schools of America. The Senate of the United States, when it passed a bill to provide for Federal aid to education, made it perfectly clear that it was opposed to Federal control of the schools, and the terms of that bill are explicit in prohibiting Federal control of the schools. On this question, there seems to be general agreement.
The resolution you have transmitted to me proceeds, however, by a process of reasoning which I do not follow, to relate this principle of freedom from control to the position of the Office of Education in the Federal Security Agency. If there is to be no Federal control in any case, I fail to see how any Federal control can grow out of any possible relationship between these two offices.
When I say I am opposed to Federal control of the schools, I mean I am opposed to control by any officer or department of the Federal Government, whether it be the United States Office of Education, the Federal Security Agency, or any other bureau or official. I, therefore, do not understand how the relationship between any of these offices or agencies is of any relevance to the problem of keeping the schools of America free of Federal control.
The relationship between these offices and agencies is of importance in increasing efficiency and effecting economies in the operation of the Federal Government. In my recommendations for the organization and reorganization of the Federal Government, I shall continue to be guided by these principles of greater efficiency and economy. I believe that these principles have the support of the Congress and the great majority of the people.
The task before the Committee on Education and Labor is to consider the need for Federal assistance to the schools, and the ways of meeting it, and then to devise a program which will, among other things, prevent all Federal officers who may have anything to do with its administration from exercising a control over matters which, we are all agreed, should be left to the States.
The Commissioner of Education, the Federal Security Administrator, or other officers of the Government cannot and will not do more than to exercise the functions and carry out the duties imposed by law on the Executive branch. This will be true in the case of Federal aid to education, if such aid is authorized, as it is in all other matters.
I see no reason why detailed questions of administrative organization should delay or impede the Committee in considering and acting upon the problem of Federal aid to education. I have long recommended the creation of a new department which will include the present Office of Education and other governmental functions in the field of education, health, and welfare. I have recommended that this department be organized in accordance with the best principles of administrative management, which require a degree of responsibility in the department head sufficient to reduce the number of inter-bureau controversies and issues that require Presidential attention.
I do not see any reason to depart from these principles at this time. They will not in any way increase the powers of any Federal officer over our schools if the Congress performs its task, as I am sure it will, of devising and enacting a satisfactory system of Federal aid based upon the concept that the control of education rests with the states.
The schools of the country are laboring under increasing burdens, and the need of Federal action to protect our children from the growing blight of poor and inadequate education is ever more pressing.
I sincerely hope that your Committee will soon complete favorable action on legislation of this character. I am sure that I can count on your support to this end.
Very sincerely yours,
HARRY S. TRUMAN
[Honorable John Lesinski, Chairman, Committee on Education and Labor, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C.]
Note: The President referred to a bill (S. 246) providing for Federal aid to elementary and secondary schools, passed by the Senate on May 5, 1949, and under consideration by the House Committee on Education and Labor at the time of his letter. The bill was not reported out by the House Committee.
Harry S Truman, Letter to the Chairman, House Committee on Education and Labor, on Federal Aid to Education. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/230710