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Statement by the President Upon Signing an Education Bill.

October 03, 1961

IT IS with extreme reluctance that I am signing S. 2393, which extends for two years: (1) the National Defense Education Act of 1958 and (2) the expired provisions of Public Laws 815 and 874 of the 81st Congress, which provides Federal assistance to "Federally impacted" schools-districts furnishing free public education to children whose parents reside or work on Federal property, or whose presence due to other Federal activity causes a sudden and substantial increase in enrollment.

(1) The extension of the NDEA without the amendments submitted by this Administration merely continues the current program, without urgently needed improvements, for two more years--years which are crucial to the training of more teachers and the strengthening of this nation's teaching of science, mathematics, foreign language and other essential subjects. Particularly undesirable is the continuation of the discriminatory and ineffective non-Communist disclaimer affidavit. I hope the Congress can renew its consideration of these NDEA amendments next year, regardless of the new expiration date.

(2) Far more undesirable is the continuation for two more years of the current aid to impacted areas program, which gives more money to more schools for more years than either logic or economy can justify. This Administration recommended a reduction in the cost of this program, an increase in its eligibility requirements and local participation, its extension for only one year instead of two, and its eventual absorption in a general aid-to-education program. The rejection of all of these requests highlights the air of utter inconsistency which surrounds this program.

Communities which beseeched the Federal Government to maintain nearby installations, however uneconomical, now demand that the Federal Government rescue them from the fiscal burdens these installations allegedly create. School districts originally entitled to temporary Federal assistance, during a transition period in which the costs of these Federally connected children could be absorbed, now demand that the aid be continued indefinitely, without any reduction for absorption, and without regard to the local taxes paid by those parents who entered the community to work on, but not reside on, Federal property. Individuals who profess opposition to Federal aid to education on grounds of states rights, racial or religious controversy, budgetary economy or academic freedom do not hesitate to demand this Federal aid to build school houses and pay teachers' salaries in their own areas.

I am not unmindful of the problems this program is designed to meet: overcrowded and hazardous classrooms in communities whose financial resources are strained to educate these Federally connected children. But I believe that overcrowded and hazardous classrooms are undesirable anywhere, whether filled by the children of Federal employees or by the children of other Federal taxpayers, and whether the local resources are strained by the location of a Federal facility or by any other cause. A quality education is a necessity for all American children, not merely those who by good fortune live in a district covered by this program.

It ill becomes those who insist that we cannot afford the expenditure of Federal funds to aid the public education of all children, to insist with equal fervor upon the passage of this unsound and uneconomical measure which aids the education of only some.

The Department of Health, Education and Welfare advises me that a refusal to extend this program at this time, thus deferring action until the next session of the Congress, would jeopardize the entire educational effort of a substantial number of school districts dependent in large measure on these funds, and unable to find substitute sources of revenue in time to meet current outlays. Many districts are legitimately in need of this aid in order to educate a substantial majority of their students whose parents both reside and work on tax-exempt Federal property. A veto would not distinguish between those properly entitled to this assistance and those who should be making more of an effort locally. I am therefore signing this bill. But the need to improve the standards of education in this country will still be before the Congress next year; and that need must 'be met on a basis which, for every dollar spent, goes much further to attack our most critical deficiencies than the measure I am required to approve today.

Note: As enacted, S. 2393 is Public Law 87-344 (75 Stat. 759).

John F. Kennedy, Statement by the President Upon Signing an Education Bill. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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