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addressed to me from M. George A. Riley, president of the Missouri Association of Schools Administrators; and a letter addressed to me from the committee on veterans' training contracts, Missouri Association of School Administrators, sir.
The CHAIRMAN. Without objection, they will be received for the record. (The letters referred to are as follows:)
STATE OF NEBRASKA,
Lincoln 9, Nebr., September 15, 1951.
Washington 6, D. C. DEAR DR. FULLER : Your special delivery letter arrived while I was away from the office for several days. Its contents were phoned me and I dispatched the telegram to you. Saturday was such a busy day, I couldn't get an opportunity to dictate my reply, so here goes in longhand. I hope it's intelligible.
In the first place I have no objection to some sort of educational and training benefits for Korean war veterans. Rather, I feel that the Congress should provide some plan of educational benefits to those veterans. Experience, with more than 5 years' operation as a State approval agency, leads me to conclude that Public Law 346 or part VIII, the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944, with its many amendments, VA interpretations, VA instructions, VA manuals, VA R. & P. R.'s, Solicitors' opinions, Administrators' decisions, etc., etc., etc., did accomplish much in providing the educational and training benefits to veterans, but did so amidst a maze of administratrative detail, confusion, and paper work. The administration of Public Law 346 is much improved by the VA these days over what it was earlier. Yet the administration is not clearly defined and is open to myriads of interpretations. A few cases will suffice:
1. Barber OJT (on-the-job-training) was eliminated from five North Central States long before it was dropped in other States. I understand some States still have it.
2. Some regional VA offices freely approved applications for flight training. Others were “tough as nails.”
3. For all its regulating, the VA did not prevent abuses in the program. These abuses were reported by the Congress itself, the VA, the Teague committee, and the General Accounting Office. The States also were not blameless. However, the VA chose to deal directly with the States with no coordination through the United States Office of Education. Hence the State had little experience to go on in the early days of the program.
So, Public Law 346 was far from perfect despite all the efforts to make it more so.
The new bill, S. 1940, is obviously the administration bill to extend educational and training benefits to Korean veterans. It is primarily an amendment to the original act and provides the benefits in much the same way as Public Law 346.
However, rather than work in the direction of simplification, ease in administration, and safeguards to prevent abuses, the bill actually makes the administration of the benefits far more involved and complicated. It gives the VA more power. It does not clearly define the function of the State agencies, and clearly holds a whip over the heads of the State agencies by definition of what may and may not be approved.
I was not able to find my printed copy of S. 1940. It's been making the rounds of the various offices and was lost for the time being.
Part XI includes statements as to eligibility. The statement, “exclusive of any period he was assigned to a civilian institution for a course of education or training under the Army, the Navy, or the Air Force which course was substantially the same as established courses offered to civilians
*”, is not clear. Later in the same paragraph the age of 23 is named as a division between those whose education was presumed to have been interrupted and those who must prove it. I can see no justification for this “and provided further.”
3 (a) after the “provided” speaks of initiating his course. Will this also include the VA definition of initiation which included continuous training?
From this point on, all power is granted the Administrator. Aside from a little reference to a State approval agency, the Administrator is empowered, anong other things, to
1. Discontinue a course when he finds that the veteran's conduct and progress is unsatisfactory. (This gives him all power. The institution might have no say in the matter. The law puts this outside the realm of the State approval agency's responsibilities.)
2. Refuse approval of a course elected or commenced by a veteran which is avocation or recreational in character. (Should not a State approval agency have the responsibility in this matter?)
3. Overrule the approval actions of the State approval agency—both to refuse to award benefits to veterans in State-approved schools he doesn't like and to award benefits to veterans in schools not State approved. Why have a State agency if the administrator's judgment will prevail.
4. Provide payments under several options: (a) Half tuition if veteran elects to receive subsistence, (b) full tuition if veteran waives subsistence. This option in itself will increase administration markedly. At present every student's full tuition is paid. Subsistence is also paid unless over-all wages exceed certain levels. Now an option is to be given the veteran. From the standpoint of some schools, real headaches will develop. In addition to accounting for veterans and nonveterans they'll have half-rate veterans and full-rate veterans. New problems in accounting will arise in the business office of every school. Chance for error will greatly increase.
5. May penalize a school if it fails promptly to notify the VA of a veteran's interruption. If the school does interrupt the veteran, he may not get back in school. So, the school's on the spot.
6. Will pay subsistence of at least one or two more rates than are the case at present. More administration required.
The law defines full-time training in trade and technical courses at 36 hours or more per week. This leaves no opportunity for the State to make its determination. Most courses of this kind are considered full time when 30 hours per week are given.
Paragraph 9 leaves no doubt as to the Administration's strangle hold on the program. Even the GAO couldn't make heads or tails of the program when they tried to audit it.
The remainder of the bill includes most of the provisions now in Public Law 346 and its many amendments. On the whole, they're workable.
The best feature of S. 1940 is the provision not to pay schools directly for books, supplies, and training equipment. This will eliminate one chance for graft and collusion.
We have no quarrel with the local VA office. It is excellent, and is staffed by fine people. They do conscientiously follow the R. & P. R.'s, but use a little common sense when doing so. We get along well at the regional office level.
However, it is the central office, at Washington that gives us the trouble. It puts out sheaves of rules, regulations, and interpretations. They have been successful in enacting into law provisions which require State agencies to forward to central office, through channels, every request for a new course or a change of course. Who are we, I wonder, when we can't make an educational decision, but must refer it to General Gray's office in Washington ?
To summarize :
1. I am in favor of legislation designed to provide educational and training benefits to Korean war veterans.
2. I am not in favor of the proposed method of providing such benefits as suggested in S. 1940.
3. There is yet time for more study. There is no urgency for the Senate to act on a bill at this time. Rather, the Congress should charge agencies closely involved in the administration of the GI bill to find a better solution.
4. I'm confident that a better bill can be drafted—one that is simpler of administration and less subject to abuse.
Thank you for this opportunity to set down some of my ideas on S. 1940. Best wishes to you. Sincerely,
OTTO G. RUFF, Supervisor of Veterans Education, Nebraska State Department of Public Instruction.
MISSOURI ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS,
Washington, Mo., August 30, 1951.
Washington, D. C. DEAR MR. FULLER: We believe that the institutional on-the-farm training program is one of the very best educational programs operated by the Veterans' Administration. It has resulted in much valuable training for veterans of World War II. For some time, however, certain unwise and discriminatory practices arbitrarily decreed by the Veterans' Administration have tended to lessen the respect for the program that it should enjoy.
In order to get the institutional on-the-farm training program started, the Veterans' Administration made definite commitments to the schools that agreed to operate the program. On numerous occasions since the plan was inaugurated the amount of payments to the schools and the rules governing payments have been changed despite the protest of the State Department of Education of Missouri and similar departments in other States.
After a veterans' farm-training program is once started in a community, it is virtually impossible to discontinue it without serious injury to the veterans who have made heavy investments in livestock, farm machinery, and farm land. On account of this fact, schools of Missouri and elsewhere have patriotically continued the operation of the IOFT service for the benefit of the veterans despite a growing feeling among local administrators that unwise and unilateral action on the part of some of the officials of the Veterans' Administration is undermining what is otherwise a program of great direct value to the veterans interested in becoming successful farmers and great indirect value to all consumers of farm products.
The committee on veterans' training contracts of the Missouri Association of School Administrators has attempted to find out the strong points of the program as well as the weak points that need to be corrected. All administrators of the program at the local level in Missouri as well as representatives of the State Department of Education of Missouri and of the regional office of the Veterans' Administration have been given opportunity to express their opinions on the merits and defects of the program either by ballot and letters or by personal conference.
Up to August 30, 150 schools out of 232 had voted their convictions on the questions submitted in our first questionnaire. A detailed tabulation of the balloting on the 15 questions is available if you desire to see it.
At the August 15 meeting of the members of our committee with President George A. Riley of the Missouri Association of School Administrators and representatives of the State Department of Education, it was decided to acquaint you with the grass roots opinions of the schools that are actually operating the program and to invite your organization to assist in formulating further legislative proposals that will tend to eliminate some of the evils and injustices that have arisen.
The recommendations of our committee are based on returns from more than 62 percent of all the schools operating the institutional on-the-farm training program in Missouri. Some of these recommendations are given below. Progressive schoolmen are not entirely satisfied with any program. There is always room for improvement. Missouri schoolmen have decide by a vote of 140 to 2 that changes should be made in the institutional on-the-farm training program. This large majority indicates that several changes in the institutional on-thefarm training contracts need to be made.
1. Missouri local school administrators have voted 110 to 30, with 8 others qualifying their votes, that the $1.25 per veteran rate of reimbursement is insufficient in their communities to pay the reasonable costs of building operation, depreciation, and rent. Some of the schools operating veterans training programs deal directly with the Veterans' Administration. For others the State Department of Education signs contracts. At one time the high schools operating the institutional on-the-farm training program in Missouri obtained reimbursement either on the basis of actual cost, providing claims were substantiated by reasonably detailed calculations, or on the basis of a flat rate of $1.25 per veteran. At the present time every Missouri high school operating the institutional on-the-farm training program under the State contract with the Veterans' Administration is compelled to accept the $1.25 rate despite the fact that many schools have costs exceeding this amount and had higher costs at the time they were compelled over their protests and over the protests of the State Department of Education to accept a reduction in reimbursement from actual cost to $1.25. This reduction is the result of a ruling of the Veterans' Administration that local schools under a State program must all accept $1.25 or all must submit detailed cost calculations. Some schools dealing direct with the Veterans' Administration are reimbursed at a rate of more than $1.25 per veteran for certain types of vocational training. The denial by the Veterans' Administration of the right of any school to obtain full reimbursement for costs is a clear violation of the intent of Congress.
Schoolmen consider the action which limits reimbursement to $1.25 to be arbitrary in nature and a violation of the pledge of the Veterans' Administration to pay actual costs to schools operating the program. School Administrators of Missouri have voted 110 to 28, with 4 qualifying their votes, that each school should be given the option of receiving reimbursement at the rate of $1.25' or actual cost. The sensible formula formerly used to determine actual costs for public schools has been discarded. The proposed calculation method recently set up by the Veterans' Administration requires so much unavailable information that it will be impossible for scores of schools to use this formula. If the Veterans' Administration compels the use of this intricate device in order that schools may obtain fair compensation, the intent of the law will be thwarted and hundreds of schools throughout America will be forced to accept less than cost reimbursement.
It was reported by a State Department of Education official that one superintendent had calculated actual costs for his school and found them to be $3.20 instead of the $1.25 all Missouri schools are now required to accept by edict of the Veterans' Administration. On the basis of replies to our first questionnaire, we are confident that many other schools are also receiving less than actual cost for service rendered. We believe, however, that the majority of the Missouri schools concerned would be willing to accept a flat rate of $2.50 for next year even though this amount of reimbursement will be less than cost for many schools.
2. By a vote of 139 to 4 with 4 other administrators qualifying their votes, the superintendents of Missouri favor full reimbursement for loss resulting from the breakage of equipment or damage to buildings by trainees. One hundred percent of all superintendents who have sent in ballots since the tabulation of April 24 favor this proposal. It is not fair to the resident students in the regular high school training program to be deprived of the use of equipment that has been broken by nonresident trainees. The cost of replacement should be borne by the Veterans' Administration, providing that the local school uses reasonable precautions to prevent breakage and damage.
3. Although reimbursement for the extra time spent by local superintendents, local vocational agriculture teachers, and local janitors in connection with the institutional on-the-farm training program was formerly paid, the central office of the Veterans' Administration has arbitrarily decided that:
(1) It “will not pay a part of the regular full-time salary of the superin. tendent to the school district, as such expense as the salary of the superintendent would be incurred whether or not veterans were in training." (Quotation is from a letter of Frank M. Page of the Veterans Administration, dated July 27, 1951.)
The above-stated policy is a direct violation of the Veterans' Administration's pledge to pay for all costs of the institutional on-the-farm training program. No worth-while program runs itself. The local superintendent must devote many hours to performing administrative functions pertaining to the program. There are two things to be considered in discussing this problem.
The school district should receive prorated reimbursement for the actual cost of the services of the superintendent that is diverted from the school's regular program by the added duties made necessary by the veterans' training program. The failure of the Veterans' Administration to reimburse the local district for this diverted time simply means that the district is being arbitrarily forced to pay a part of the debts of the Veterans' Administration. This unilateral and unfair action on the part of the Veterans' Administration clearly violates the law which states that reimbursement shall be fair and reasonable.
(2) The Veterans Administration in defending its position claims that “it has not been shown that additional duties outside of the regular duties of the superintendent are performed or are necessary to the extent that additional salary should be paid by the Veterans' Administration in addition to regular salary received by the superintendent from the regular school program.” (Quoted from the same letter mentioned above.)
This statement is indicative of the fact that the Veterans' Administration is either grossly ignorant of or grossly indifferent to the facts.
Our committee has made a very careful survey of this matter. Missouri administrators have by the overwhelming vote of 132 to 10 decided that “the school district or the administrator should receive compensation at a reasonable figure for the extra time of the superintendent devoted to the administration of the program."
Every ballot received since the June meeting of the Missouri Association of School Administrators favors this proposal. Both the local school administrator and the local instructor of vocational agriculture, and frequently the school janitor, are usually employed on a full-time 12-months basis. Reimbursement is allowed for the extra time of the regular janitor and the extra time of the regular agriculture teacher.
School administrators recognize the value of the extra time given to the program by the vocational agriculture teacher, but those who have studied the problems of fair reimbursement know that it is absurd, illogical, and discriminatory for the Veterans Administration to compensate a local district for the extra services of one of its employees and then to deny any compensation whatever to another whose added services are also necessary.
Every vocational agriculture teacher that we know concedes that the present plan is discriminatory.
Recently our committee sent out a second questionnaire to ascertain the actual grass roots opinion of the schools operating the institutional on-the-farm training program concerning the provisions in the present law that gives the Veterans' Administrator final authority to determine what is fair and just. That no one man is sufficiently well informed or wise enough to be granted such arbitrary power is clearly established by the replies received to date. One hundred percent of all administrators have answered “yes” to question 16, which reads as follows:
Question 16. “In the event that Congress passes a new GI bill extending educational benefits to veterans of the Korean war, do you favor making contested regulations issued by the Veterans' Administration subject to review by an impartial, distinterested group without undue delay ?"
Such unanimity of opinion of those most directly concerned indicates very definitely that any new legislation should provide for impartial reviews of Veterans' Administration regulations without lengthy and costly court action.
Question 17 on the second questionnaire to school superintendents reads as follows:
“Do you believe that it is preferable to have the institutional on-the-farm training and similar educational programs channeled through the United States Office of Education rather than through the Veterans' Administration ?”
Evidently the Veterans' Administration is losing support among the schoolmen. While on question 17 sufficient returns are not yet in to say definitely what a more complete report will be, tabulations to date show 84 percent of the superintendents voting “Yes.” The other 16 percent of the superintendents are divided in the opinions. A few have voted “no,” while the others either have qualified their answers or have stated they have no preference. This vote may be considered as another indication that the Veterans' Administration is out of step with the schools that are carrying on its educational program.
If you have not already examined House Report No. 3253 and House Committee Print No. 160, we hope you will do so. In them you will find, evidence of excessive payments for the services of heads of certain private schools and evidence of other unethical and discriminatory practices.
We believe that Missouri's institutional on-the-farm training program is one of the 10 best in America, but we desire to make it still better. We strongly favor the regular vocational training program in American high schools. We realize, however, that it is only one part of the total local program. We would very much regret to see the present discriminatory practices of the Veterans' Administration become a tool in the hands of opponents of vocational training that can be used as a wedge to split off or weaken the entire regular vocational program. There is a very grave danger that the imposition of arbitrary Federal regulations which fail to take into account the judgment and experience of local administrators and local schools will undermine the support of the entire vocational program. Already we are beginning to hear from schoolmen and from