DECEMBER 24, 1958
HYDE PARK—There seems to be a real conflict between the warnings that have been handed out by financial experts about balancing our budgets—Federal, state and local—and the question that inevitably arises as to how these budgets are to be balanced.
For instance, in October it was stated in Mayor Robert F. Wagner's proposed budget that New York City teachers' salary schedules were "in a very excellent competitive position as compared with other communities." In October the High School Teachers' Association of New York City released the results of an extensive salary survey that showed that New York City high-school teachers' salaries had declined from '39 to '58 in comparison to the consumers' cost of living index. And this holds true not only for the high-school teachers but for nearly all the levels of teaching.
This has been the reason it has been so difficult to hold teachers and to recruit new ones.
Now the question is: In order to keep down inflation, is this one of the areas in which we have a right to stand still?
If so, our children are going to suffer. Actually, we need an entire revision of the way we handle our children in New York City aroas, for I am very uncertain whether it is either economical or good policy to have what we have labeled our "600" or "700" schools, which have been established to handle our retarded and problem children. More money spent on regular schools and on the salaries of teachers might bring us better results in the long run and relieve the congestion in our reformatories and hospitals.
If we out on hospitals and social services, the already impossible situation for our voluntary hospitals that receive city patients will become worse instead of better.
The question of where to cut the budget to stop inflation and yet perform the vitally necessary services for young and old is a question that can be handled only by experts. And these experts must have a broad enough view not to look at the question just as a financial question but to realize that it is a human problem and requires particularly careful and thoughtful handling.
I feel sorry for the mayor, who has to make the final decisions in all these questions, just as I feel sorry for Governor-elect Nelson Rockefeller.
In the case of the state, since we shall see a change in administration, we almost certainly shall hear the glib remark that, of course, the Republicans are having to pay for bad management on the part of the Democrats. As a matter of fact, however, whoever would be taking over would have to face the problems that now stare us in the face.
The rise in population in mental hospitals is not the least of these problems. Schools all over the state are looking for better teachers, and the financial problems of many communities are growing more complicated.
I know in my own rural county there are problems that need to be tackled and it is extremely difficult to get them worked out. This difficulty stems not only from lack of finances, but also because people are not anxious to face new and unpleasant conditions and find solutions. Most people, as a general rule, prefer to let the old conditions slide along and just pray for a miracle to wipe them out.