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Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House on the National Defense Education Act.

April 25, 1961

Dear Mr._______________:

Three years ago, the Congress declared, in enacting the National Defense Education Act, that "the security of our Nation requires the fullest development of the mental resources and technical skills of its young men and women." The principal objective of that Act was to correct serious imbalances in the American educational system by assisting and encouraging improved education and training in science, mathematics, modern foreign languages, and technology. It also included measures to strengthen our elementary and .secondary school system and to help our young people to obtain college and graduate education.

That program has served the Nation well. It has made a significant contribution toward education in fields which were suffering from lack of attention but which were important to our national security and progress. It has helped improve foreign language instruction, testing and counseling programs, and education in science and mathematics. The student loan and fellowship provisions have assisted more than 200,000 students in their quest for higher education.

But the need today to improve and strengthen our educational system is still great. There are still critical shortages of teachers. Loan funds for college students are still needed. The importance of scientific and technological advance is increasing. It will take the combined efforts of both our public and our private school systems to meet the challenges facing us.

Almost all of the programs of the National Defense Education Act will terminate on June 30, 30. Steps should be taken immediately to make provision for the continuation and expansion of these programs. Our national strength and welfare demand a strong and balanced educational system. Many proposals have been made by both public and private organizations to achieve this strength and balance, including the Report of the Consultants to the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and the U.S. Commissioner of Education, the recommendations of the Chief State School Officers, the American Council on Education, the American Library Association, and the Modern Language Association.

I am transmitting herewith draft legislation to amend, improve and extend the National Defense Education Act. Some of the recommendations of these organizations are included in the draft legislation. It is also appropriate that the Congress consider other proposals contained in these and other reports.

The legislation herewith proposed is an integral part of the proposals sent to the Congress for strengthening the basic elements of our educational system. It complements legislation already being considered to authorize general aid to public, elementary and secondary schools, to provide-funds for construction of college facilities, and to authorize a college scholarship program.

I recommend that the student loan, fellowship, language and statistical improvement programs be made permanent. Equipment grants, grants for testing, guidance and counseling and educational media research should be extended for three years to permit reappraisal after the general education aid programs have gone into operation. The vocational education program should be extended pending completion of the reevaluation of all national vocational education programs, to which I referred in my message of February 20. Major programs authorized by the existing Act have already proved their value and should be expanded and improved.

The proposed legislation is described in more detail in the enclosed letter from the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.



Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Lyndon B. Johnson, President of the Senate, and to the Honorable Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

John F. Kennedy, Letter to the President of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House on the National Defense Education Act. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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