Page images
PDF
EPUB

parents and school personnel alike are worried about meeting next year's school bills for teachers, buildings, and budgets. They are even more worried about how they are going to be able to meet the expenditures of the next 25 years in a period of a continuing high birth rate.

BECOMING TIGHT-FISTED

More disturbing to school superintendents is the increasing voter rigidity to today's rising educational costs. Such communities as Dobbs Ferry, Yonkers, Mount Vernon, Levittown, and even Great Neck-long an outstanding example of generous school support--are becoming tight-fisted with their school funds, or threatening to do so.

Beset by rising Federal, State, and local taxes, suburban voters, especially in New York and New Jersey, are tending to fight back in the only legal way open to them : by chopping down or knocking out entirely school budgets and bond issues which will raise their local property taxes. In return, these same citizens demand superior suburban schools for less money.

The State education department in Albany is admitting privately that it fears a sharp drop in budget approvals in New York State next month because of the withholding of the State income tax which began April 1.

REJECT MORE ISSUES

Further, in 1957–58 school-bond-issue referendums, five counties near New York City rejected more issues in dollar value than they passed : $27,485,043 rejected versus $20,220,724 approved. The five include Dutchess (none approved), Orange, Rockland, Ulster, and Westchester—which passed almost $10,500,000 worth of building and sites, but rejected more than $12 million.

Some New Jersey counties are also reflecting the trend toward more voter rigidity. In that State, more than 73 percent of the 1958 school costs of $479,500,000 came from local support, according to the National Education Association. But in Bergen County, for example, the percentage of budgets passed the first time dropped from 85 to 73 between 1956–57 and 1959–60. During the same period, Union County dropped from 100 percent to 77, and Passaic from 100 to 88 percent.

CONSCIOUS OF TEXAS

Commenting on this exemplar, Dr. J. Harold Straub, Passaic County superintendent, said: "People here are more interested than ever in better schools for the 60,000 school children in this county. But the people are becoming conscious of taxes. We still have difficult building problems and double sessions to be eliminated. Money will continue to be a problem.”

In the diverse pattern of community support for schools, which still may vary from outright rejection of funds to generous backing, Fairfield County in Connecticut is going against the New York-New Jersey trend. The State education department in Hartford declares flatly that the county “has not experienced the setbacks that New York has. Most school bonds are being voted."

Expenditures in such towns as Stamford, Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, and Norwalk are on the rise. Greenwich is paying outright—without bonded indebtedness—for a new senior high school which may cost as much as $9 million. Its 1959 budget is up $1 million over the 1957 budget of $3,600,000. Stamford is building a $4,300,000 high school, Darien, a $3 million high school.

OUTLAY IN NORWALK

In Norwalk, Superintendent Harry A Becker said recently that "in 6 years Norwalk has spent $10 million on its schools. This actually amounts to a school system in itself, 5 elementary schools, 2 junior high schools, and 1 senior high school, now being built-plus two other elementary schools now being completed.” These will take care of a school population which has risen from 8,500 in 1953 to 13,500 expected next fall.

The Roman Catholics of Norwalk are now building their first parochial high school, a $2,500,000 building, opening next September. It will eventually house 1,000 students.

In truth, Fairfield has not borne the tremendous population expansion which has hit some suburban communities, and which, by population prediction, will continue to plague all schools in the coming 20 to 25 years.

BABY BOOM A FACTOR

The postwar baby boom, which has seen more than 4 million babies born each year for the last 5 years, is expected to remain high right up to the mid-1960's, according to statisticians of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Co. After that, the huge numbers of post-World War II babies will be grown and married and have children of their own for a vast new wave of future school pupils.

The population boom is already overwhelming the Long Island counties of Nassau and Suffolk. Since 1954–55, Nassau has approved school building projects valued at more than $25,000 to the staggering total of $203,416,988. Suffolk, in the same period running through 1957-58 has voted $134,153,557 for new schools.

LONG ISLAND EXAMPLE

Nowhere is this Long Island boom better illustrated than in Plainview-Old Bethpage, the Nassau school district known as Central School District No. 4. It is one of the fastest-growing districts in the United States.

In 1949, a scant 10 years ago, Plainview-Old Bethpage had a pupil population of exactly 88, taught by two teachers in the two-room Old Mannetto Hill Road elementary school, built in 1899. The town's total population was 1,100.

Now, with a population of 25,000, the district has 7,300 ipilsalmost 84 times as many as in 1949–50. The two classroom teachers are now 250, and 80 more will be hired from 3,000 applicants for 1959–60, at salaries ranging up to $9,400 a year (the New York City maximum is $8,400). Since January 1952, the district has added six elementary schools and one junior-senior high school at a cost of $9,650,800.

BCHOOLS REPLACE FIELDS

In addition, four new buildings with a value of $11,441,000 have been approved in the last year, for a grand total of more than $21 million since 1952. The former potato fields have now blossomed with schools over a 6-square-mile area. And the district will not reach its predicted school population peak of 10,755 until 1966.

What has this done to a Plainview citizen's taxes? In 1950, Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Rosato lived in a house valued at $3,400. At the property tax rate of $2.05 for each $100 of assessed valuation, Mr. Rosato, an aircraft foreman at Republic Aviation Corp. in Farmingdale, paid $69.70 for his schools. This year the Rosatos are living in another house assessed at $6,700. With the tax rate at $5.43, they are paying $363.81. And if the 1959 rate of $6.50 is approved (and assessed valuation on their house remains the same), they will pay $435.50.

“I don't think the rate should go up so much,” says Mrs. Rosato. "We don't need these elaborate schools—these beautiful palaces—the swimming pool and the driver training. But, if it's necessary, I suppose there's nothing we can do."

THE PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS

In the Long Island counties, parochial education, too, is facing a building crisis. The Very Rev. Msgr. Ronald B. MacDonald, director of the building office of the Diocese of Rockville Centre (which embraces both counties), says there are 60,000 pupils in Roman Catholic schools and 60,000 Roman Catholic children in public schools. At present there are 18 new parochial schools proposed and 11 under construction.

"There is a demand," Monsignor MacDonald said, "for 1,500 more classrooms. But where are we going to get 1,500 teachers?”

The cry for more teachers may be loud in the suburbs, but by and large, it is much softer than it is in the city.

Suburban communities pay $400 to $1,000 more a year to their teachers than the city, which has a single scale of $4,000 to $8,400. As a matter of fact, according to the Metropolitan School Study Council of Teachers College, Columbia University, there are now 64 teachers earning $10,000 or more a year in 64 communities around the city.

AVERAGE COMMUNITY

The council's newest survey of suburban systems, which has just been published, also cites the fact that the average community-from Mineola, Long Island, to Greenwich, Conn.-has 58 teachers and other professionals for every 1,000 students. This is 50 percent more staff than the same communities had in 1920 and compares favorably with the national average of 45 staff members for every 1,000 pupils.

The city dweller who is moving to the suburbs "for the sake of the children, because schools are better" is likely to get what he is seeking, bright modern schools, educational experiments such as team teaching in Norwalk, homogenous grouping in New Canaan elementary schools, gradeless elementary schools in Westport, a longer and tougher school day in Long Beach-and enough teachers.

WINCES AT TAX RISE

But the suburbanite, who never feels the bite of paying for free schooling in the city, still winces as his property tax goes up and up each year to buy the very education he is seeking for his children in "better” suburban schools. With few exceptions, he is tending toward a reluctance to think educational expenses through. He is loath to plan beyond this year's school, and his school board, aware that it must get his vote if any building progress is to be made, will compromise the bond issues or the budgets and go along with his thinking.

How will the ultimate financing of suburban schools—let alone of community colleges which will be urgently needed in the next 10 years—be solved ? Dr. James E. Allen, Jr., Commissioner of Education in New York State, feels that the property tax cannot do the job now or in the future and that a sales, income, or corporation tax must help.

Dr. William S. Vincent, executive secretary of the Metropolitan School Study Council, believes that “Federal support in massive amounts” is the answer.

Howard B. Mattlin, school board member in Plainview-Old Bethpage, offers a layman's answer: Get better informed school board members and give them carte blanche to plan and build schools with lump-sum appropriations. "How can you meet your goals,” he asks, "when you have to consult everybody in town about everything? What do you suppose would happen if Governor Rocke feller had to put up his budget for State referendum ? Until we have school districts run efficiently by well informed and well advised persons, there will be chaos in school financing."

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

$ $ $ $ $

School Budget-$4,621,500

$508 Expenditure per Pupil

Herald Tribune chart by Charles Kavenagha

Ten years of growth—Comparing the school situation in the Nassau County

community known as Central School District No. 4, embracing sections of Plainview-Old Bethpage.

Mr. SILBERT. It might be interesting for the members of the committee to have the New York Herald Tribune made available to them for the next 2 or 3 days, because they are going to run a series on “Suburbia Today," a reappraisal of what is happening in our suburban areas.

Let me just paraphrase one of these charts to give you the relative figures of suburban growth, as it has occurred on Long Island.

Taking one little area called Plainview, in 1950 the total population was 1,100 people. In 1959 the total population was 25,000 people.

In 1950 they had 88 pupils and 2 classrooms. In 1959 they had 7,300 pupils and 250 classrooms.

Very interestingly, though, in 1950 they had 44 pupils per teacher, and this year, 9 years later, they only have 30 pupils per teacher.

It is quite apparent from these statistics that the local citizenry is more than ever sharing their burden of the school program, and I think the same thing holds true for sewer disposal plants or water systems.

I think that we can unequivocally state, therefore, that the people who are moving into these areas, are more than ever carrying their share of the burden. The problem today is how much more of this can they carry.

I think you may find food for thought in the net bonded debt of Nassau County. This includes the county as a unit and also includes its separate townships and cities, and its school, sanitation, sewage, and water districts.

From 1950 to 1958, 8 years, this bonded debt climbed from $130 million to $545 million. During the 5 years ending last December, the school bond item in this total increased by $214 million and the sewage bonds, $34 million.

What these figures say is that our people on Long Island have not begged for favors. They have voted to tax themselves. They have borne their burden for education, sanitation, health, and other family needs with great foresight and understanding.

But in this tremendous growth, this rush to the suburbs from both city and rural areas, Long Island, as well as many other areas throughout the Nation, is caught by immediate necessities.

We are certainly reaching a point at which, without the lift that additional loans on noncommercial terms will provide, many of these incoming people cannot afford the taxes of the new conimunities. They are in process of paying for their essential installations.

All over Long Island the hospitals are having drives trying to keep up with increasing needs. The water districts have issued bonds, the school districts make irresistible demands. Everywhere to be seen is the evidence of community responsibility.

And now we come to sewers, not a subject of glamor, but the solution to practical problems. There is an alternative, to be sure; we can install septic tanks or cesspools, which are a safe and established method of waste disposal, although sewers are better and most communities eventually install them.

Our Community Developers Council had one experience in which a housing development aimed directly at the needs of war veterans was held up by the State health department, which demanded sewers.

The county authorities had no help to offer; they were out of money and couldn't put in sewers.

« PreviousContinue »