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Special Message to the Congress Proposing the Emergency School Aid Act of 1970

May 21, 1970

To the Congress of the United States:

Successfully desegregating the nation's schools requires more than the enforcement of laws. It also requires an investment of money.

In my statement on school desegregation on March 24, I said that I would recommend expenditure of an additional $1.5 billion--$500 million in fiscal 1971, and $1 billion in fiscal 1972--to assist local school authorities in meeting four special categories of need:

"--The special needs of desegregating (or recently desegregated) districts for additional facilities, personnel and training required to get the new, unitary system successfully started.

"--The special needs of racially impacted schools where de facto segregation persists--and where immediate infusions of money can make a real difference in terms of educational effectiveness.

"--The special needs of those districts that have the furthest to go to catch up educationally with the rest of the nation.

"--The financing of innovative techniques for providing educationally sound interracial experiences for children in racially isolated schools."

To achieve these purposes, I now propose the Emergency School Aid Act of 1970.

Under the terms of this Act, the four categories of need I outlined would be met through three categories of aid:

(I) Aid to districts now eliminating de jure segregation either pursuant to direct Federal court orders or in accordance with plans approved by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, for special needs incident to compliance.

(II) Aid to districts that wish to undertake voluntary efforts to eliminate, reduce or prevent de facto racial isolation, with such aid specifically targeted for those purposes.

(III) Aid to districts in which de facto racial separation persists, for the purpose of helping establish special interracial or inter-cultural educational programs or, where such programs are impracticable, programs designed to overcome the educational disadvantages that stem from racial isolation.

In all three categories, administrative priority will be given to what I described on March 24 as "the special needs of those districts that have the furthest to go to catch up educationally with the rest of the nation." In all three, also, there will be special attention given to the development of innovative techniques that hold promise not only of helping the children immediately involved, but also of increasing our understanding of how these special needs can best be met.


The process of putting an end to what formerly were deliberately segregated schools has been long and difficult. The job is largely done, but it is not yet completed. In many districts, the changes needed to produce desegregation place a heavy strain on the local school systems, and stretch thin the resources of those districts required to desegregate. The Federal Government should assist in meeting the additional cost of transition. This Act would do so, not only for those now desegregating but also for those that have desegregated within the past two years but still face additional needs as a result of the change.

The educational effects of racial isolation, however, are not confined to those districts that previously operated dual systems. In most of our large cities, and in many smaller communities, housing patterns have produced racial separation in the schools which in turn has had an adverse effect on the education of the children. It is in the national interest that where such isolation exists, even though it is not of a kind that violates the law, we should do our best to assist local school districts attempting to overcome its effects.

In some cases this can best be done by reducing or eliminating the isolation itself. In some cases it can best be done through interracial educational programs involving the children of two or more different schools. In some cases, where these measures are not practicable or feasible, it requires special measures to upgrade education within particular schools or to provide learning experiences of a type that can enlarge the perspective of children whose lives have been racially circumscribed.

This Act deals specifically with problems which arise from racial separation, whether deliberate or not, and whether past or present. It is clear that racial isolation ordinarily has an adverse effect on education. Conversely, we also know that desegregation is vital to quality education--not only from the standpoint of raising the achievement levels of the disadvantaged, but also from the standpoint of helping all children achieve the broadbased human understanding that increasingly is essential in today's world.

This Act is addressed both to helping overcome the adverse effects of racial isolation, and to helping attain the positive benefits of integrated education. It is concerned not with the long range, broad gauge needs of the educational system as a whole, but rather with these special and immediate needs.


The procedures under this Act are designed to put the money where the needs are greatest and where it can most effectively be used, and to provide both local initiative and Federal review in each case.

Two-thirds of the funds would be allotted among the states on the basis of a special formula. One-third would be reserved for use by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare for especially promising projects in any eligible district. In all cases, whether under the State allotment or not, the grants would be made for specific individual projects with each project requiring approval by the Secretary. Application for grants would be made by local education agencies, with the State given an opportunity to review and comment on the grant application.

The State allotment formula begins by providing a basic minimum of $100,000 in each fiscal year for each State. The remainder of formula funds for each fiscal year would be allotted among the States according to the proportion of the nation's minority students in each State, with those in districts required by law to desegregate and implementing a desegregation plan double-counted. This double counting is designed to put extra money where the most urgent needs are, recognizing that there is a priority need at the present time for the ending of de jure segregation swiftly, completely, and in a manner that does not sacrifice the quality of education.

If any given State's allocation of funds is not fully utilized under the terms of this Act, the remainder of those funds would then be reallocated on the same formula basis for use in other States.

Under Category I (de jure desegregating), any district would be eligible which is now implementing an approved desegregation plan, or which had completed implementing one within two years prior to its application. Those not yet doing so would become eligible upon submission of an acceptable plan. Funds would be available to help meet the additional costs of implementing the desegregation plan itself, and also for special programs or projects designed to make desegregation succeed in educational terms.

Under Category II (de facto desegregating), any district would be eligible if it has one or more schools in which minority pupils now constitute more than half the enrollment, or appear likely to in the near future. Funds could be provided to help carry out a comprehensive program for the elimination, reduction or prevention of racial isolation in one or more such schools within the district.

Under Category III (special programs in racially impacted areas), a district would be eligible if it has 10,000 or more minority students, or if minority students constitute 50 percent or more of its public school enrollment. Funds could be provided under this category for special interracial or intercultural educational programs or, where these proved impracticable, for unusually promising pilot or demonstration programs designed to help overcome the adverse educational impact of racial isolation.

In connection with this Category III aid, it is worth noting that such research data as is available suggests strongly that from an educational standpoint what matters most is not the integrated school but the integrated classroom. This might, at first glance, seem a distinction without a difference. But it can make a great deal of difference, especially where full integration of schools is infeasible. It means that, by arranging to have certain activities integrated--for example, by bringing students from a mostly black school and from a mostly white school together for special training in a third location--the educational benefits of integration can be achieved, at least in significant part, even though the schools themselves remain preponderantly white or black.

In a number of communities, experiments are already under way or being planned with a variety of interracial learning experiences. These have included joint field trips, educational exchanges between inner-city and suburban schools, city-wide art and music festivals, and enriched curricula in inner-city schools that serve as a "magnet" for white students in special courses. Other innovative approaches have included attitude training for teachers, guidance and counseling by interracial teams, and after-hour programs in which parents participated. I cite these not as an inclusive catalogue, but merely as a few examples of the kinds of experimental approaches that are being tried, and that give some indication of the range of activities that could and should be further experimented with.

Examples of the kinds of activities which could be funded under all categories are teacher training, special remedial programs, guidance and counseling, development of curriculum materials, renovation of buildings, lease or purchase of temporary classrooms, and special community activities associated with projects funded under the Act.


It now is late in the legislative year, and very soon it will be the beginning of the next school year.

In the life of the desegregation process, the fall of 1970 has special significance and presents extraordinary problems, inasmuch as all of the school districts which have not yet desegregated must do so by then. The educational problems they confront are enormous, and the related problems of community social and economic adjustment are equally so.

Some 220 school districts are now under court order calling for complete desegregation by this September; 496 districts have submitted, are negotiating or are likely to be negotiating desegregation plans under HEW auspices for total desegregation by this September; another 278 districts are operating under plans begun in 1968 or 1969; more than 500 Northern districts are now under review or likely soon to be under review for possible violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Quite beyond these matters of enforcement, we also must come seriously to grips with the fact that of the nation's 8.7 million public school students of minority races, almost 50 percent are in schools with student populations made up 95 percent or more of minority pupils.

Desegregating districts face urgent needs for teachers, education specialists, materials, curriculum revision, equipment and renovation.

Teachers and education specialists for the fall of 1970 are being recruited now. Materials and equipment must be purchased this summer to be on hand for the opening of school. Curriculum revision requires months of preparation. Contracts for renovation must be entered into and work commenced soon.

Administration representatives are now discussing with members of Congress possible ways of making the first of the funds for the purposes of this Act available when they are needed, which is now, through the use of existing legislative authorities.

Five hundred million dollars will be spent in fiscal 1971. I recommend that $150 million be appropriated under these existing authorities, on an emergency basis, as "start-up" money.

I recommend that the remaining $350 million for Fiscal 1971 and $1 billion for Fiscal 1972 be appropriated under the Emergency School Aid Act itself. It is this Administration's firm intention to spend these funds--$500 million in Fiscal 1971 and $1 billion in Fiscal 1972--in the years for which they are appropriated.


If money provided under this Act were spread too thinly, it would have very little impact at all on the specific problems toward which it is addressed. Therefore, the criteria ]aid down in the Act are designed to insure its use in a manner sufficiently concentrated to produce a significant and measurable effect in those places where it is used.

This is not, and should not be, simply another device for pumping additional money into the public school system. We face educational needs that go far beyond the range or the reach of this Act. But the specific needs the Act addresses are immediate and acute. It represents a shift of priorities. It places a greater share of our resources behind the goal of making the desegregation process work, and making it work now. It also represents a measured step toward the larger goal of extending the proven educational benefits of integrated education to all children wherever they live.

Properly used, this $1.5 billion can represent an enormous contribution to both quality and equality of education in the United States.

With this help, the process of ending de jure segregation can be brought to a swift completion with minimum disruption to the process of education. It is in the interest of all of us--North and South alike--to insure that the desegregation process is carried out in a manner that raises the educational standards of the affected schools.

Beyond this, our goal is a system in which education throughout the nation is both equal and excellent, and in which racial barriers cease to exist. This does not mean imposing an arbitrary "racial balance" throughout the nation's school systems. But it should mean aiding and encouraging voluntary efforts by communities which seek to promote a greater degree of racial integration, and to undo the educational effects of racial isolation.

Nothing in this Act is intended either to punish or to reward. Rather, it recognizes that a time of transition, during which local districts bring their practices into accord with national policy, is a time when a special partnership is needed between the Federal Government and the districts most directly affected. It also recognizes that doing a better job of overcoming the adverse educational effects of racial isolation, wherever it exists, benefits not only the community but the nation.

This legislative recommendation should be read in the context of my comprehensive public statement of March 24 on school desegregation. In that, I dealt with questions of philosophy and of policy. Here, I am dealing with two aspects of the process of implementation: aiding the desegregation process required by law, and supporting voluntary community efforts to extend the social and educational benefits of interracial education.

The issues involved in desegregating schools, reducing racial isolation and providing equal educational opportunity are not simple. Many of the questions are profound, the factors complex, the legitimate considerations in conflict, and the answers elusive. Our continuing search, therefore, must be not for the perfect set of answers, but for the most nearly perfect and the most constructive.

Few issues facing us as a nation are of such transcendent importance: important because of the vital role that our public schools play in the nation's life and in its future; because the welfare of our children is at stake; because our national conscience is at stake; and because it presents us a test of our capacity to live together in one nation, in brotherhood and understanding.

The tensions and difficulties of a time of great social change require us to take actions that move beyond the daily debate. This legislation is a first major step in that essential direction.

The education of each of our children affects us all. Time lost in the educational process may never be recovered. I urge that this measure be acted on speedily, because the needs to which it is addressed are uniquely and compellingly needs of the present moment.


The White House

May 21, 1970

Richard Nixon, Special Message to the Congress Proposing the Emergency School Aid Act of 1970 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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