Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s June 1938 speech to the National Education Association (hat tip, Crooks and Liars).
Full text here; some excerpts:
We have believed wholeheartedly in investing the money of all the people on the education of the people. That conviction, backed up by taxes and dollars, is no accident, for it is the logical application of our faith in democracy.
Here is where the whole problem of education ties in definitely with natural resources and the economic picture of the individual community or state. We all know that the best schools are, in most cases, located in those communities which can afford to spend the most money on them—the most money for adequate teachers’ salaries, for modern buildings and for modern equipment of all kinds. We know that the weakest educational link in the system lies in those communities which have the lowest taxable values, therefore, the smallest per capita tax receipts and, therefore, the lowest teachers’ salaries and most inadequate buildings and equipment. We do not blame these latter communities. They want better educational facilities, but simply have not enough money to pay the cost.
There is probably a wider divergence today in the standard of education between the richest communities and the poorest communities than there was one hundred years ago; and it is, therefore, our immediate task to seek to close that gap—not in any way by decreasing the facilities of the richer communities but by extending aid to those less fortunate. We all know that if we do not close this gap it will continue to widen, for the best brains in the poor communities will either have no chance to develop or will migrate to those places where their ability will stand a better chance.
Make them listen to this in Madison and in Washington.
Thomas J. Mertz