Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Special Message to the Congress: "Toward Full Educational Opportunity.

January 12, 1965

To the Congress of the United States:

In 1787, the Continental Congress declared in the Northwest Ordinance: "schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged."

America is strong and prosperous and free because for one hundred and seventy-eight years we have honored that commitment. In the United States today:

--One-quarter of all Americans are in the nation's classrooms.

--High school attendance has grown 19-fold since the turn of the century--6 times as fast as the population.

--College enrollment has advanced 80-fold. Americans today support a fourth of the world's institutions of higher learning and a third of its professors and college students.

In the life of the individual, education is always an unfinished task.

And in the life of this nation, the advancement of education is a continuing challenge.

There is a darker side to education in America:

--One student out of every three now in the fifth grade will drop out before finishing high school--if the present rate continues.

--Almost a million young people will continue to quit school each year--if our schools fail to stimulate their desire to learn.

--Over one hundred thousand of our brightest high school graduates each year will not go to college--and many others will leave college--if the opportunity for higher education is not expanded.

The cost of this neglect runs high--both for the youth and the nation.

--Unemployment of young people with an eighth grade education or less is four times the national average.

--Jobs filled by high school graduates rose by 40% in the last ten years. Jobs for those with less schooling decreased by nearly 10%.

We can measure the cost in even starker terms. We now spend about $450 a year per child in our public schools. But we spend $1,800 a year to keep a delinquent youth in a detention home, $2,500 a year for a family on relief, $3,500 a year for a criminal in state prison.

The growing numbers of young people reaching school age demand that we move swiftly even to stand still.

--Attendance in elementary and secondary schools will increase by 4 million in the next five years. 400,000 new classrooms will be needed to meet this growth. But almost 1/2 million of the nation's existing classrooms are already more than 30 years old.

--The post-World War II boom in babies has now reached college age. And by 1970, our colleges must be prepared to add 50% more enrollment to their presently overcrowded facilities.

In the past, Congress has supported an increasing commitment to education in America. Last year, I signed historic measures passed by the Eighty-eighth Congress to provide:

--facilities badly needed by universities, colleges and community colleges;

--major new resources for vocational training;

--more loans and fellowships for students enrolled in higher education;

--enlarged and improved training for physicians, dentists and nurses.

I propose that the Eighty-ninth Congress join me in extending the commitment still further. I propose that we declare a national goal of Full Educational Opportunity.

Every child must be encouraged to get as much education as he has the ability to take.

We want this not only for his sake--but for the nation's sake.

Nothing matters more to the future of our country: not our military preparedness-for armed might is worthless if we lack the brain power to build a world of peace; not our productive economy--for we cannot sustain growth without trained manpower; not our democratic system of government--for freedom is fragile if citizens are ignorant.

We must demand that our schools increase not only the quantity but the quality of America's education. For we recognize that nuclear age problems cannot be solved with horse-and-buggy learning. The three R's of our school system must be supported by the three T's--teachers who are superior, techniques of instruction that are modern, and thinking about education which places it first in all our plans and hopes.

Specifically, four major tasks confront us:

--to bring better education to millions of disadvantaged youth who need it most;

--to put the best educational equipment and ideas and innovations within reach of all students;

--to advance the technology of teaching and the training of teachers;

--to provide incentives for those who wish to learn at every stage along the road to learning.

Our program must match the magnitude of these tasks. The budget on education which I request for fiscal year 1966 will contain a total of $4.1 billion. This includes $1.1 billion to finance programs established by the Eighty-eighth Congress. I will submit a request for $1.5 billion in new obligational authority to finance the programs described in this message. This expenditure is a small price to pay for developing our nation's most priceless resource.

In all that we do, we mean to strengthen our state and community education system. Federal assistance does not mean federal control--as past programs have proven. The late Senator Robert Taft declared "Education is primarily a state function but in the field of education, as in the field of health, relief and medical care, the Federal Government has a secondary obligation to see that there is a basic floor under those essential services for all adults and children in the United States."

In this spirit, I urge that we now push ahead with the number one business of the American people--the education of our youth in pre-schools, elementary and secondary schools, and in the colleges and universities.

I. PRE-SCHOOL PROGRAM My budget will include up to $150 million for pre-school projects under the Community Action Program of the Economic Opportunity Act.

Education must begin with the very young. The child from the urban or rural slum frequently misses his chance even before he begins school. Tests show that he is usually a year behind in academic attainment by the time he reaches third grade-and up to three years behind if he reaches the eighth grade. By then the handicap has grown too great for many children. Their horizons have narrowed; their prospects for lifetimes of failure have hardened. A large percentage of our young people whose family incomes are less than $2,000 do not go beyond the eighth grade.

Pre-school programs have demonstrated marked success in overcoming this initial handicap:

--In New York City, children from slum neighborhoods who attended nursery school have performed better when tested in the third and fourth grades than those who did not attend.

--In Baltimore, children with language and cultural handicaps are being helped greatly by a pre-school program. According to preliminary reports, 2/3 of them are in the top 50% of their kindergarten and first grade classes on a city-wide measure; 1/6 of them are in the top quarter.

But today, almost half of our school districts conduct no kindergarten classes. Public nursery schools are found in only about 100 of our 26,000 school districts. We must expand our pre-school program in order to reach disadvantaged children early.

Action on a wide front will begin this summer through a special "Head-Start" program for children who are scheduled to begin school next fall. In addition, funds for low-income schools, regional education laboratories, and supplementary educational centers and services (recommended below) will be devoted to these vital pre-school programs.

II. ELEMENTARY AND SECONDARY SCHOOLS Elementary and secondary schools are the foundation of our education system.

--Forty-eight million students are now in our grade and high schools.

--71 percent of the Nation's expenditures for education are spent on elementary and secondary schooling.

If these schools are to do their job properly, they need help and they need it now. I propose that we give first priority to a program of:

A. AID TO LOW-INCOME SCHOOL DISTRICTS I recommend that legislation be enacted to authorize a major program of assistance to public elementary and secondary schools serving children of low-income families. My budget for fiscal year 1966 will request $1 billion for this new program.

One hundred years ago, a man with six or seven years of schooling stood well above the average. His chances to get ahead were as good as the next man's. But today, lack of formal education is likely to mean low wages, frequent unemployment, and a home in an urban or rural slum.

Poverty has many roots but the tap root is ignorance.

--Poverty is the lot of two-thirds of the families in which the family head has had eight years or less of schooling.

--Twenty percent of the youth aged 18-24 with an eighth grade education or less are unemployed--four times the national average.

Just as ignorance breeds poverty, poverty all too often breeds ignorance in the next generation.

--Nearly half the youths rejected by Selective Service for educational deficiency have fathers who are unemployed or else working in unskilled and low-income jobs.

--Fathers of more than one-half of the draft rejectees did not complete the eighth grade.

The burden on the nation's schools is not evenly distributed. Low-income families are heavily concentrated in particular urban neighborhoods or rural areas. Faced with the largest educational needs, many of these school districts have inadequate financial resources. This imbalance has been increased by the movement of high income families from the center of cities to the suburbs--and their replacement by lowincome families from rural areas.

--The five States with the lowest incomes spend only an average of $276 per pupil, less than half the average of the five highest-income States.

--Despite a massive effort, our big cities generally spend only about two-thirds as much per pupil as their adjacent suburbs.

--In our fifteen largest cities, 60 percent of the tenth grade students from poverty neighborhoods drop out before finishing high school.

This is a national problem. Federal action is needed to assist the States and localities in bringing the full benefits of education to children of low-income families. Assistance will be provided:

--On the basis of Census data showing the distribution of low income families among the counties or school districts within States.

--Through payments made to states for distribution to school districts.

--With the assurance that the funds will be used for improving the quality of education in schools serving low-income areas.

--On the condition that Federal funds will not be used to reduce state and local fiscal efforts.

--For the benefit of all children within the area served, including those who participate in shared services or other special educational projects.

B. SCHOOL LIBRARY RESOURCES AND INSTRUCTIONAL MATERIALS I recommend legislation to authorize Federal grants to States to assist in the purchase of books for school libraries and for student use, to be made available to children in public and private non-profit elementary and secondary schools.

Thomas Carlyle once said, "All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books."

Yet our school libraries are limping along.

--Almost 70 percent of the public elementary schools have no libraries. Eightyfour percent lack librarians to teach children the value of learning through good books.

--Many schools have an average of less than 1/2 book per child.

--To meet the accepted standards for library materials would require a four-fold increase in current expenditures in our major cities.

The explosion of knowledge and the rapid revision of curricula in the schools has created new demands for school textbooks. The obsolete text can suffocate the learning process. Yet the cost of purchasing textbooks at increasing prices puts a major obstacle in the path of education--an obstacle that can and must be eliminated.

C. SUPPLEMENTARY EDUCATIONAL CENTERS AND SERVICES I recommend a program of Federal grants for supplementary education centers and services within the community.

We think of schools as places where youth learns, but our schools also need to learn.

The educational gap we face is one of quality as well as quantity.

Exciting experiments in education are underway, supported by the National Science Foundation, by the Office of Education and other Government agencies, and by private philanthropic foundations. Many of our children have studied the "new" math. There are highly effective ways of teaching high school physics, biology, chemistry, and foreign languages.

We need to take full advantage of these and other innovations. Specialists can spark the interest of disadvantaged students. Remedial reading courses open up new vistas for slow learners. Gifted students can be brought along at a faster pace.

Yet such special educational services are not available in many communities. A limited local tax base cannot stand the expense. Most individual schools are not large enough to justify the services.

The supplementary center can provide such services as:

--Special courses in science, foreign languages, literature, music, and art.

--Programs for the physically handicapped and mentally retarded.

--Instruction in the sciences and humanities during the summer for economically and culturally deprived children.

--Special assistance after regular school hours.

--Common facilities that can be maintained more efficiently for a group of schools than for a single school--laboratories, libraries, auditoriums, and theaters.

--A system by which gifted persons can teach part-time to provide scarce talents.

--A means of introducing into the school system new courses, instructional materials, and teaching practices.

--A way of tapping the community's extra-curricular resources for the benefit of students--museums, concert and lecture programs, and industrial laboratories.

Within each community, public and private non-profit schools and agencies will cooperate to devise the plan and administer the program for these supplementary centers. Their services should be adapted to meet the pressing needs of each locality.

D. REGIONAL EDUCATION LABORATORIES I recommend the establishment under the Cooperative Research Act of regional educational laboratories which will undertake research, train teachers, and implement tested research findings.

I further recommend amendments to the Act to:

--Broaden the types of research organizations now eligible for educational projects.

--Train educational research personnel.

--Provide grants for research, development of new curricula, dissemination of information, and implementation of educational innovations.

--Support construction of research facilities and the purchase of research equipment.

Under auspices of the National Science Foundation, educators have worked with scientists-including Nobel laureates--to develop courses which capture the excitement of contemporary science. They have prepared totally new instructional materials-laboratory equipment, textbooks, teachers' guides, films, supplementary reading and examinations. After testing, they are made available to public and private schools.

We need to extend our research and development-to history, literature, and economics; to art and music; to reading, writing, and speaking; to occupational, vocational, and technical education. We need to extend it to all stages of learning--preschool, elementary and secondary schools, college and graduate training.

Regional laboratories for education offer great promise. They draw equally upon educators and the practitioners in all fields of learning--mathematicians, scientists, social scientists, linguists, musicians, artists, and writers. They help both to improve curricula and to train teachers.

E. STRENGTHENING STATE EDUCATIONAL AGENCIES I recommend a program of grants to State educational agencies.

State leadership becomes increasingly important as we seek to improve the quality of elementary and secondary education.

We should assist the States by strengthening State departments of education in their efforts to:

--Provide consultative and technical assistance for local school districts and local school leadership.

--Formulate long-range plans.

--Expand educational research and development.

--Improve local and State information about education.

--Identify emerging educational problems.

--Provide for the training of State and local education personnel.

--Conduct periodic evaluation of educational programs.

--Promote teacher improvement courses. These new programs will substantially augment community resources in the war against poverty. As provided by sections 611 and 612 of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, I will see that the new efforts are kept in step with our other anti-poverty efforts.

In those localities where the community has undertaken a Community Action Program under the Economic Opportunity Act, the community agency should participate in the planning of these new educational programs and in their coordination with ongoing and developing anti-poverty efforts.

Enactment of these proposals for elementary and secondary education is of utmost urgency. I urge early and favorable consideration by the Congress.

III. HIGHER EDUCATION Higher education is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.

Programs enacted by Congress in the past have contributed greatly to strengthening our colleges and universities. These will be carried forward under my 1966 budget, which includes:

--An additional $179 million to assist construction of college classrooms, libraries and laboratories.

--An additional $25 million for 4,500 more graduate fellowships to overcome college teaching shortages.

--An additional $110 million to further basic research in the universities, to provide science fellowships, and to promote science education.

But we need to do more:

--To extend the opportunity for higher education more broadly among lower and middle income families.

--To help small and less well developed colleges improve their programs.

To enrich the library resources of colleges and universities.

--To draw upon the unique and invaluable resources of our great universities to deal with national problems of poverty and community development.


I recommend a program of scholarships for needy and qualified high school graduates to enable them to enter and to continue in college.

Loans authorized by the National Defense Education Act currently assist nearly 300,000 college students. Still the following conditions exist:

--Each year an estimated 100,000 young people of demonstrated ability fail to go on to college because of lack of money. Many thousands more from low-income families must borrow heavily to meet college costs.

--Only one out of three young people from low-income families attend college compared with four out of five from highincome families.

For many young people from poor families loans are not enough to open the way to higher education.

Under this program, a special effort will be made to identify needy students of promise early in their high school careers. The scholarship will serve as a building block, to be augmented by work-study and other support, so that the needy student can chart his own course in higher studies.

My 1966 budget provides sufficient funds for grants to help up to 140,000 students in the first year.

2. Expansion of Work-Study Opportunity and Guaranteed Low-Interest Loans

l recommend:

--that the existing college work-study program be made available to more students and that authority for the program be transferred to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

--that a part of the cost of interest payments on guaranteed private loans to college students be paid by the Federal Government.

Going to college is increasingly expensive. A student must pay nearly $2,400 a year in a private college and about $1,600 in a public college. These costs may rise by one-third over the next decade.

Two aids should be extended to meet the heavy costs of college education. First, the existing work-study program should be expanded for students from low-income families and extended to students from middleincome families. Under this program the Federal Government pays 90 percent of the wages earned by students on useful projects. This will enable a student to earn on the average of $450 during a school year, and up to $500 more during the summer.

Second, many families cannot cover all of college expenses on an out-of-pocket basis. We should assure greater availability of private credit on reasonable terms and conditions. This can best be done by paying part of interest cost of guaranteed loans made by private lenders--a more effective, fairer, and far less costly way of providing assistance than the various tax credit devices which have been proposed.

B. AID TO SMALLER COLLEGES I recommend that legislation be enacted to strengthen less developed colleges.

Many of our smaller colleges are battling for survival. About 10 percent lack proper accreditation, and others face constantly the threat of losing accreditation. Many are isolated from the main currents of academic life.

Private sources and states alone cannot carry the whole burden of doing what must be done for these important units in our total educational system. Federal aid is essential.

Universities should be encouraged to enter into cooperative relationships to help less developed colleges, including such assistance as:

--A program of faculty exchanges.

--Special programs to enable faculty members of small colleges to renew and extend knowledge of their fields.

--A national fellowship program to encourage highly qualified young graduate students and instructors in large universities to augment the teaching resources of small colleges

--The development of joint programs to make more efficient use of available facilities and faculty.

In union there is strength. This is the basic premise of my recommendation.

C. SUPPORT FOR COLLEGE LIBRARY RESOURCES I recommend enactment of legislation for purchase of books and library materials to strengthen college teaching and research.

--50 percent of our four-year institutions fall below accepted professional standards in the number of volumes possessed.

As student enrollment mounts, we must look not only to the physical growth of our colleges and universities. They must be developed as true centers of intellectual activity. To construct a library building is meaningless unless there are books to bring life to the library.

D. UNIVERSITY-COMMUNITY EXTENSION PROGRAM I recommend a program of grants to support university extension concentrating on problems of the community.

Institutions of higher learning are being called on ever more frequently for public service -- for defense research, foreign development, and countless other programs. They have performed magnificently. We must now call upon them to meet new needs.

Once, 90 percent of our population earned its living from the land. A wise Congress enacted the Morrill Act of 1862 and the Hatch Act of 1887 which helped the state universities help the American people. With the aid of the land grant colleges, American agriculture produced overwhelming abundance.

Today, 70 percent of our people live in urban communities. They are confronted by problems of poverty, residential blight, polluted air and water, inadequate mass transportation and health services, strained human relations, and overburdened municipal services.

Our great universities have the skills and knowledge to match these mountainous problems. They can offer expert guidance in community planning; research and development in pressing educational problems; economic and job market studies; continuing education of the community's professional and business leadership; and programs for the disadvantaged.

The role of the university must extend far beyond the ordinary extension-type operation. Its research findings and talents must be made available to the community. Faculty must be called upon for consulting activities. Pilot projects, seminars, conferences, TV programs, and task forces drawing on many departments of the university -- all should be brought into play.

This is a demanding assignment for the universities, and many are not now ready for it. The time has come for us to help the university to face problems of the city as it once faced problems of the farm.

E. SPECIAL MANPOWER NEEDS We must also ask the colleges and universities to help overcome certain acute deficiencies in trained manpower. At least 100,000 more professional librarians are needed for service in public libraries and in schools and colleges. We need 140,000 more teachers for handicapped children.

I recommend:

--Grants to institutions of higher learning for training of school, college and community librarians and related services.

--Extension and expansion of grants for training teachers and handicapped children.

CONCLUSION In 1838, Mirabeau B. Lamar, the Second President of the Republic of Texas and the father of Texas education, declared: "The cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy. It is the only dictator that free man acknowledges. It is the only security that free man desires."

Throughout the history of our nation, the United States has recognized this truth. But during the periods when the country has been most astir with creative activity, when it most keenly sensed the sturdiness of the old reaching out for the vigor of the new, it has given special attention to its educational system.

This was true in the expansive 1820's and 30's, when the American people acted decisively to build a public school system for the lower grades. It was no less true at the vigorous turn of the century, when high schools were developed for the millions. Again, during the questing 1930's, fresh ideas stirred the traditions of the ruler and blackboard.

We are now embarked on another venture to put the American dream to work in meeting the new demands of a new day. Once again we must start where men who would improve their society have always known they must begin -- with an educational system restudied, reinforced, and revitalized.


The White House

January 13, 1965

Note: For statements or remarks upon signing related legislation, see Items 181, 578, 603.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Special Message to the Congress: "Toward Full Educational Opportunity. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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