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Letter to the Speaker on Federal Aid to Education.

May 26, 1948

Dear Mr. Speaker:

I wish to express my earnest hope that the House of Representatives will take favorable action at this session upon legislation providing Federal aid for elementary and secondary schools.

It will be recalled that, at the beginning of the present session, I repeated the earlier recommendations which I had made to the Congress for legislation of this character, and that I included in the Budget for the fiscal year 1949 an estimate of $300 million to cover the cost of such legislation. Since the Budget was submitted in January, it has become apparent that large expenditures above those contemplated in the Budget will be required for national defense purposes and for carrying out the provisions of new legislation which has been enacted by the Congress. The necessity for meeting these additional expenditures emphasizes, of course, the importance of practicing careful economy in other Federal expenses and postponing items that can be deferred. In the light of these circumstances, the question has been raised, quite properly, as to whether it is necessary for us to forego providing Federal aid to education at this time.

I think it appropriate, therefore, that I should make clear the position of the Executive in view of the changed conditions with which we are confronted.

I regard the proper education of our youth' as a matter of paramount importance to the welfare and security of the United States. Public provision for education has been primarily the concern of the several States, and must remain so. The maintenance of freedom of thought and expression depends in large measure upon keeping our systems of education free from central control. But it is necessary and proper that the Federal Government should furnish financial assistance which will make it possible for the States to provide educational facilities more nearly adequate to meet the pressing needs of our Nation.

The cost of providing adequate systems of schools has long been beyond the financial resources of many of our States. Now a real crisis exists. Rapid increases in school population have resulted in overcrowding. Higher prices have brought sharp increases in construction and operating costs. Expanding employment opportunities in other fields have attracted teachers away from the schools. Many of the teachers who have stayed in the schools because of their interest in their work are underpaid and must have their salaries increased. We cannot expect to hold our present teachers, no matter how strong their devotion, nor to attract the additional teachers we need, unless they are properly compensated.

Unless the Federal Government comes to the aid of the States in meeting these needs, there is danger of a serious breakdown in our systems of education. We cannot take such a risk.

I am therefore convinced that the increases which have become necessary in other Federal expenditures present no valid reason for delaying Federal aid to education. On the contrary, I consider that such assistance will be a major contribution to the vitality of American democracy, which is the foundation of all our efforts toward peace and freedom.

A bill to provide Federal aid to education has recently been passed in the Senate by a substantial majority of both parties.

I hope that legislation for this purpose will soon be passed also by the House of Representatives.

Very sincerely yours,


[Honorable Joseph W. Martin, Jr., Speaker of the House of Representatives]

Note: The bill to provide Federal aid to education (S. 472), passed by the Senate on April 1, 1948, was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor on April 2. The House of Representatives took no action on the bill.

Harry S Truman, Letter to the Speaker on Federal Aid to Education. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/232303

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