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Mr. BETTS. I see.
I think this question may have been answered—I was detained outside the hearing room, but I wanted the panel to be able to respond.
There has been testimony before the committee that the problems of parochial schools are not really economic ones. I have heard a lot of testimony the other way, including yours.
Has anybody asked you to respond to the particular testimony that the problems of parochial schools are noneconomic, Cardinal?
Cardinal COOKE. We touched on it a little bit.
Mr. BROTZMAN. Would you respond to that? I think the record needs your answer on that.
Cardinal COOKE. Certainly among the problems of the Catholic schools, the financial one is certainly a very, very serious one. There are other problems, of course, in the school system. I don't know of any school system that doesn't have problems, whether problems of personnel, teachers, problems of updating curriculum, problems like that. In fact, we like to have problems; that is why we are there, to
I know, of course, that sometimes people say maybe the parents are not as determined to exercise their freedom of choice in education to have nonpublic schools. This could be debated back and forth and certainly in a country such as ours, that is again the beauty of the situation; we can all debate and be good friends.
I know from personal experience in the Archdiocese of New York, when a school has to close, that it is one of the most difficult assignments a person can have. If you happen to be the archbishop, it would be a good day to be in Alaska. The feeling of the people is very strong.
Bishop McManus. The Panel on Nonpublic Education on which I served commissioned about a half million dollars worth of research on the dimensions of the "nonpublic school problem."
The heart of the problem is that for the past 5 years enrollment in nonpublic schools has been declining at a faster rate than has enrollment in public schools. The question addressed by the panel was what interventions may be employed to slow down the declining rate of enrollment in nonpublic schools. Before answering the question the panel studied various factors responsible for dwindling enrollment.
One large factor was the movement of many of the patrons of nonpublic schools from city areas where there are schools to suburban areas where none had been built and would not be built because of the high cost of construction at the present time.
Another factor was the declining birth rate 5 and 6 years ago which was reflected in lower first grade enrollments.
Still another factor was a shift in values; young parents, in particular, sometimes see many advantages in public schools near their new suburban homes. They see what taxes they are paying; the public school is close by, while the Catholic school is far away; so they make their decision to send their children to public schools. There are some, too, who simply prefer a public school over a Catholic school.
Then there is the factor of cost. Higher tuition rates are not causing people to withdraw their children from Catholic schools but are deterring people from putting their children in them in the first place.
Another factor we discovered in our research was the uncertainty of our schools' future was deterring people from investing their money and children in a risky enterprise.
In summary, the nonpublic school crisis or nonpublic school problem has many facets. To deaccelerate the present rate of declining enrollment will require many interventions and some of these will have to be taken by the nonpublic schools, themselves.
Nonpublic schools must recruit students, clarify their objectives, go in for innovative programs, and make the tuition rates more within the range of the people to whom they can appeal.
One intervention that we are seeking is tax credits. That will not solve the whole problem but it will be of much help in our appeals to parents to continue their investment of personal funds in nonpublic schools.
Mr. BROTZMAN. I would understand that the other interventions are taking place, is that correct, so that it we did something like this it would really be a major contribution towards solving the problem?
Cardinal COOKE. That is exactly it.
Bishop McManus. If this committee were to approve tax-credit legislation and it were enacted by Congress, this would be a declaration of public policy that this Nation wants the nonpublic schools to continue. With that kind of commitment from Government, those of us operating these schools then have a base on which to intensify our appeals to encourage youngsters to continue in our schools.
Mr. BROTZMAN. Thank you very much.
My question has been answered, and I would like to express my appreciation for your testimony.
The CHAIRMAN. Any further questions?
If not, we thank you so much, Your Eminence, for coming this morning and bringing those with you at the table. You have been very helpful.
Cardinal COOKE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, for the opportunity given to us and also just for the expression of your concern and interest in this area which already gives us a little bit of encouragement. We hope it is successful.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you very much.
Our next witness is our colleague from Massachusetts, Mrs. Margaret M. Heckler.
STATEMENT OF HON. MARGARET M. HECKLER, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MASSACHUSETTS
The CHAIRMAN. We are pleased to have you with us. You are recognized.
Mrs. HECKLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I appreciate very much this opportunity to discuss a most pressing and serious issue with you.
The issue is serious because it basically involves the quality of education of American children.
The issue is pressing because it borders on crisis and time is running out.
The Congress has responded to the needs of public elementary and secondary education in the United States, recognizing that the minds and characters of American children rank high among national priorities.
And, yet, public education still wrestles with the problem of rising costs and enrollment, on the one hand, with rising taxpayer resistance to increased property tax rates, on the ohter.
Revenue-sharing legislation, written by the extraordinary effort of this committee, introduces an unknown factor into the situation. It is not regarded as a substitute for property taxes nor is it designed to permit communities to lower tax rates. As I understand it, revenue sharing gives States, counties, cities, and towns additional revenue to meet their needs while they set about restructuring their tax rates for better generation of revenue.
Meanwhile, in the background looms the Serrano v. Priest decision in California which calls into question the use of local property taxes to finance public education.
So, public education continues problem-ridden despite the efforts of the Congress and of local communities, themselves.
Now, still another problem moves relentlessly into the picture of American elementary and secondary education. It is the system of 13,000 nonpublic schools attended by some 4.5 million children.
These schools and these students, an integral part of American life almost since the founding of the Republic, are experiencing the very same cost problems of the public education system, but their revenue well is much nearer to running dry.
In the past 5 years, 1,300 Catholic schools alone have been forced to close, adding close to half a million more students to the public school systems of the nation.
Closer to home, in the diocese of Fall River in my congressional district, 19 parochial schools have had to close during the past 5 years. And this has meant 5,000 more youngsters entering public schools.
The trend is continuing and is going to accelerate as costs mount and faculties are depleted. This is affecting primarily Catholic schools in my district, but the same situation is true of all nonpublic schools all over the country.
As more and more of these nonpublic schools close, the immediate effect is going to be an enormous strain on the public system.
In terms of dollars, it has been estimated that if all the nonpublic schools in the country closed, the cost of public education would increase by $10 billion. Three billion of that for annual operating expenses; the remainder for capital improvements to expand facilities.
Consider what this would mean to local tax rates, already inflated, in communities already hard-pressed to make fiscal ends meet.
To demonstrate the impact, let me cite specific figures in my part of the country.
In the city of Boston, the new property tax rate this year is $196.70 per $1,000 assessed valuation. If all the nonpublic schools in that city were to close and the students transfer to public schools, that tax rate would increase by $20, to $216.70.
In my own congressional district, if the same thing happened, the property tax rate in the depressed city of Fall River would increase by $46.20 per $1,000 valuation; the city of Taunton by $39.70; the city of Attleboro by $6.40 per $1,000.
These are cities whose taxpayers are already backed to the wall in trying to meet the cost of services and facilities they require for basic comfortable living. Every additional dollar in taxes has the aspect of a straw on a camel's back.
Aside from the financial dimensions of the situation, there is the larger question of the physical effect an additional 4.5 million nonpublic school students would have on public school facilities and the impact their presence would have on the overall quality of education.
The result, it is safe to say, would constitute nothing short of a crisis for American education.
Turning from the practical aspects of the problem, there is the recognition of the value of the nonpublic system, itself.
It has produced in the last 150 years countless constructive, productive citizens whose collective contribution to this country has been sizable. It represents the best of the American genius for pluralism, a helpful counterweight in the Nation's overall education system.
To let it die, I submit, would do violence to the public school system, to the American taxpayer, to the quality of the education generally, and to the precious American freedom of choice.
To let it die so that all children would have to attend public schools would be to pervert freedom itself.
As a solution, I have proposed, along with the distinguished chairman of the committee and the distinguished ranking member of the minority, as well as other Members of the House, extending to the parents of children attending nonpublic schools a credit against the Federal income tax they must pay.
This credit against their tax liability would equal half the yearly tuition they pay, or $400, whichever is less.
As a solution, I feel the legislation before this committee is the right vehicle to resolve the situation we face today. The tax credit proposed would provide relief which is desperately needed.
It has been estimated this plan would deprive the Federal Treasury of $508 million a year. Practically, the loss to the Treasury compares quite favorably with the $10 billion annual increase that would have to be assumed by local taxpayers if the nonpublic system went out of existence.
And that says nothing about the increased direct Federal assistance that would be required. Of course, it does not absolve the parents from continuing to support the public schools with their taxes.
What of the constitutional question? I strongly support the separation of church and state. And I do not believe the Congress should ever knowingly violate the Constitution.
I do believe this tax credit legislation will stand any court test of constitutionality. It meets the three tests laid down by the Supreme Court in the well-known Walz case involving the tax exemption of property used for religious purposes.
These tests are that Government assistance in the form of tax exemption must be for a public purpose, must have a primary effect which neither advances nor inhibits religion, and must not result in an excessive entanglement of Government with religion.
The tuition tax credit proposal meets these tests on the grounds that the relationship is between the Government and the parents, and not with any religious institution.
Furthermore, education is a public purpose, as the Court has ruled in other cases involving textbooks and transportation for private school children.
Obviously, this committee is faced with a serious dilemma. We are at the point of crisis on this issue, and I would say, frankly speaking, the constitutional arguments suggested are not sufficient to warrant the judgment that Congress should not pass the legislation,
On the economic side of the issue, the crisis is such that we are threatening not merely the non-public-school system but the quality of education in general because all children in education throughout the country will face foreclosure.
The CHAIRMAN. Thank you.
Mr. BURKE. I wish to commend my colleague, Margaret Heckler, for her appearance here and the excellent arguments she has presented to the committee. She is recognized as an expert on constitutional law and is a delightful person, in addition.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Pettis.
I, too, wish to commend our colleague, Mrs. Heckler, for an excellent statement and for the unique point of view she presented to the committee this morning.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Brotzman. Mr. BROTZMAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I, too, would like to welcome our colleague, the gentlelady from Massachusetts, and congratulate her on the vast amount of homework she has done for this statement.
I have had opportunity to talk with her on prior occasions, and, as usual, her testimony was clear, concise, and very helpful to this committee.
The CHAIRMAN. Mr. Duncan?
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Chairman, I had the pleasure of serving with the Congresswoman on the Veterans' Committee, and I know of no district that receives better representation than her district.
Mr. BURKE (presiding). We thank you for your appearance here today and the great contribution you have made.
Mrs. HECKLER. I wish to thank the members of the committee. I realize you have a crowded schedule, and I appreciate the workload of this committee. I am here because of an enormous personal concern on this issue. Thank
you. Mr. BURKE. I have been informed that Congressman Larry Winn, Jr., is next.
STATEMENT OF HON. LARRY WINN, JR., A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF KANSAS
Mr. BURKE. We welcome you to the committee, Congressman.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I want to take this opportunity to thank you for this chance to testify about the issue