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Mr. PUCINSKI. Before we call on our next witness, we would like to introduce to the committee a very gracious lady who I understand is the chairman of the local school board 9 and has had a very rich experience in various aspects of social work in New York.
We are very happy to welcome before the committee Mrs. Sadye S. Reiss.
Mrs. Reiss, perhaps you would like to make a statement.
Mr. SCHEUER. Why don't we establish this as our Bronx panel and hear from both of you, and we will ask questions.
Mr. PUCINSKI. Joining Mrs. Reiss in this panel will be Mr. Mortimer Rothstein, the chairman of the board of directors of Claremont Neighborhood House. Mr. Rothstein, do you have a prepared statement?
Mr. ROTHSTEIN. Yes; I do.
Mr. PUCINSKI. Your entire statement, of course, will go in the record. Perhaps you will want to read it or perhaps you would like to yield to Mrs. Reiss first.
STATEMENTS OF MORTIMER ROTHSTEIN, BOARD OF DIRECTORS,
CLAREMONT NEIGHBORHOOD HOUSE; AND MRS. SADYE S. REISS, CHAIRMAN, LOCAL SCHOOL BOARD 9, BRONX, PAST PRESIDENT, MID-BRONX COMMUNITY COUNCIL, PRESIDENT, FRIENDS OF PUBLIC EDUCATION OF THE BRONX
Mrs. Reiss. First of all, I want to express my appreciation for being permitted to come here this morning to express the views not only of Local School Board 9, but the Mid-Bronx Community Council and also Friends of Public Education of the Bronx, which takes in a vast number of people.
I was very much impressed with what the deputy mayor has said, and I go along with him. But I, too, must express my thoughts that preschool children should be included. For your information, Congressman Scheuer, I visited a school, prekindergarten class, in our own neighborhood, in my district, and I saw children there where the school lunch is the most important meal that they get during the entire day.
You will be surprised what this means to the children during the summer. We have summer programs, but the children have to pay for the lunches and they can ill afford it in many areas of our community.
I noticed in this particular classroom a child 4 years of age who had not spoken one word, was not able to speak, until he came to this school. We found that he was not getting the proper nutrition. He now has spoken six words to us. This is a beginning, but he is being fed properly.
We notice among other children where the parents are gainfully employed but leave the children to their own devices, unfortunately, so we ask you to include the prekindergarten children in this project.
Let me commend you for this marvelous piece of work you are doing in the legislature and you, Congressman Scheuer, we are indeed proud to have you represent us in our community.
Mr. SCHEUER. I am grateful for those words.
Mr. PUCINSKI. Yes.
Mr. DANIELS. What is the usual age of a child attending prekindergarten school?
Mrs. Reiss. Kindergarten is about 4% to 5 years of age. Then they go into the first grade. But we have children from 3%, in the prekindergarten class. It is like a nursery school.
Mr. DANIELS. Do these classes exist throughout the city in the public schools?
Mrs. Reiss. No; not throughout the entire city. They are in several schools in each community. We don't have them in every school. We can't have them in the intermediate schools, nor can we have them in the high schools; just in some of the elementary schools. The school I speak of is 88; that is in Congressman Scheuer's district, and my district.
Mr. DANIELS. Can you give the committee any estimate of how many students are enrolled in the prekindergarten classes?
Mrs. Reiss. I can give you that for my own district. In all the elementary schools we have kindergarten classes, but prekindergarten classes are scattered. I should say we have about 10 in our district, 8 to 10.
Mr. DANIELS. When you refer to your district, it embodies how large an area?
Mrs. REISS. Twenty-four schools. That includes one high school, the Taft High School. Of course, we don't have intermediate schools there or prekindergarten or kindergarten classes, but in the 23 schools we have the elementary and the intermediate schools.
Mr. DANIELS. Among all these schools do you have people who come from socially and culturally deprived families?
Mrs. Reiss. Yes. Many, Many. Then they are bussed in our schools from other districts. In every school in my district, we have children bussed in from other districts.
Mr. DANIELS. What do you estimate the attendance to be in these 24 schools you speak of?
Mrs. Reiss. Let me explain that. We have on the average, except the high school, about 1,200 children. There are some more, some less. The school I speak of happens to be a very small school. We call that a doll house. It is only up to the third grade, but they have about 600 children.
Mr. DANIELS. Collectively, you have 2,400?
Mrs. REISS. We have more than that. We have in some schools 1,200, in some schools 1,100. Most of my schools are about 1,000 to 1,200.
Mr. SCHEUER. It would be 20,000 to 25,000.
Mrs. Reiss. Yes; 25,000 definitely. We have a deprived area in the eastern part of our district. Every school has children bussed in from other deprived areas. They come into our district.
Mr. SCHEUER. I am familiar with that situation in New York.
Mrs. Reiss. Every school is integrated. We don't have any school that is not integrated in our district. We have a wonderful superintendent, Dr. Ames, who is very, very alert to this problem. He is doing a magnificent job at the expense, probably, of his health. This is true.
Mr. SCHEUER. I believe, Mr. Chairman, we can get figures from either the local board of education or from the State school board which will furnish us with the exact figures as to the number of students in the kindergarten and prekindergarten classes.
Mrs. Reiss. May I add this: In the southern part of our borough, which takes in part of Congressman Scheuer's district, we have a large percentage of underprivileged children-a large percentage; not the northern part of the district so much, but our part.
Mr. SCHEUER. Although the majority of the population, perhaps 60 percent, is in the northern part of the district, might it not well be that a majority of the school population is in the southern part of the district and would probably be characterized as underprivileged?
Mrs. REISS. That is right. In my own district we have 6272 percent Negro Puerto Ricans. A large number of those children are underprivileged. We are really giving them special services. This superintendent is an unusual man. He has been at this for so many years. He is the dean of the superintendents in the Bronx.
I would go along with Congressman Scheuer. The southeast part of our borough really needs a lot of help. District 8 needs it-not District 10. Maybe 12 needs it. But 10 and 11 are pretty good. They do not have the same problem that we have. We have a tremendous number of underprivileged children.
Mr. DANIELS. Mrs. Reiss, I want to commend you for coming here this morning
Mrs. REISS. Thank you.
Mr. DANIELS. And for showing such great interest in this social problem.
Mrs. Reiss. I have been doing this for 40 years. Forty years this month.
Mr. SCHEUER. I am very flattered and grateful that you came.
Mr. SCHEUER. We are all in your debt. We are very much honored that you are present.
Mr. PUCINSKI. Thank you, Mrs. Reiss. Mr. Rothstein?
Mr. ROTHSTEIN. I am here as the chairman of the board of Claremont Neighboorhood Centers located in Claremont Village in the congressional district of which Congressman Scheuer is our Representative.
Mr. Chairman, members and staff of the House Committee on Education and Labor, I want to thank you for giving me an opportunity to appear here today in support of H.R. 9339. I have been designated by the Association of Neighborhood Councils of Greater New York to announce their 100 percent support of this bill.
Over the years, I have been privileged to observe the effectiveness of the lunch program as a means of concretizing the relationship of the child to the community. As chairman of the board of Claremont Neighboorhood Centers, Inc., I maintain a responsible day-to-day relationship with the agency that services an area that includes å housing complex embracing 18,000 residents.
Our neighborhood work is especially important and significant in this area of reference because the section in which we serve was at one time regarded as an incubation center for juvenile problems. I can say with no small degree of pride that our organization, with the help of such beneficial programs as the “lunch program,” has been able to help reduce the incidence of delinquency in the area.
It should be noted that our area is represented in the Congress by Congressman James H. Scheuer, the author of H.R. 9339, the bill on which you have graciously permitted me to testify. It is my considered judgment that this bill, which is designed to extend the benefit of the special lunch program to youth throughout the Nation, will accomplish a great deal in the protection and well-being of the children for whose benefit it has been designed.
In my broader responsibility as president of the Association of Neighborhood Councils of Greater New York, I have given careful study to the nutritional analysis and statistics which have been compiled by the representatives of more than 50 neighborhood councils, who are agreed in the principle that an extension of the lunch program is desirable indeed. However, I am not here today to address myself to cold figures and statistics. All of you will readily agree that the adoption of this program will make a considerable impact on the health of our Nation's youth.
No, I am not concerned with the abstract question of the need and the usefulness of this lunch program in terms of bodily nutrition. My main interest is the factor which most significantly resulted in the unanimous endorsement of the program by the board of directors of the Association of Neighborhood Councils of Greater New York.
Now, let us get this very clear for the record. Congressman Scheuer's bill has been unanimously endorsed by our association, and let us be clear on this point. The association, in and of itself, has as its members neighborhood units which, in turn, each represent a number of groups such as neighborhood groups, parents' associations, block associations, churchmen's groups, the whole complex of neighborhood civic and improvement organizations in a particular community.
In simple terms, I am here today to testify that the thousands of men and women who work at the grassroots solving the problems of the community and its youth have unanimously given their support to H.R. 9339.
I have devoted considerable time to the study of this program because I was convinced that Congressman Scheuer, who has given generously of his time, energies, and interest in the neighborhood and youth work of our sprawling metropolis and for the Claremont area, has singled out an effective device for illustrating to our youth that the community as a whole is interested in their well-being.
It is a firmly established psychological fact that the first loyalties of our youth go to the home where comfort and security are symbolized by a hot plate of nourishing soup. It is a sociological corollary to this axiom that the community lunch program, when administered with interest, relates this basic human feeling for the home to the community which cared enough to assure a full stomach to every ravenous youth.
We see it every day. It is a universal trait of youth to ignore as an abstract principle the community achievements that do not immediately apply to the child. Thus, there can be great community pride in a new school building or in the fact that a school system's academic standards have been highly rated. But the child is more concerned with the fact that the community has given him a playground, a swimming pool, or a place for him and his buddies to meet and play.
So, too, the child looks forward to the meal that will be provided by his community. It is far more important to him than the sandwich that mother managed to put together the night before after her return from a day at work. No, it is not a simple question of calories or vitamins and mineral balance. The child is unaware of all this, and we look forward to overall results from this nutritional phase of the lunch program. The big, impressive fact that remains with the child is this symbol of the fact that our great Nation, of which his community is part, cared enough about the child to meet the child at a most basic level.
In our communities, we have an expression that the children frequently use; namely, “Put it where it counts; put it in the breadbasket." We give our unqualified support to H.R. 9339 because it will provide a means of educating America's youth through the breadbasket, where it counts; that their country cares about them, cares enough to guarantee that they are fed.
Yes, I am proud to stand here today, as president of the Association of Neighborhood Councils of Greater New York, to say officially that our organization backs H.R. 9339 all the way.
I might add at this point that last night the board of directors of Claremont Neighborhood Ceaters also met at a regular meeting. When I mentioned that I was going to come down here to testify, they asked that I come down to testify on behalf of the Claremont Neighborhood Centers and note that they are unanimously in support of this bill, too.
But, I would be remiss in this area of civic responsibility if I did not add an observation that comes to me as an overseas veteran of World War Il. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, in which I serve as county judge advocate, as well as other veterans' groups in which I am active, are most concerned with youth activities, on the premise that the youth of today is the heart of America's defense in the days ahead. In our service overseas, we have observed the patriotism of the youth in all lands who know that his country cares.
As we study the draft card burners, and the insecure malcontents who cast civic responsbility aside, we say that when patriotism has been taught as a living instrumentality from earliest childhood, it is rare, indeed, to find youths who do not love their country and their flag. I say to you that the adoption of Congressman Scheuer's bill is a forceful way in which we can help to illustrate that the country really cares about the youth and, in turn, the country can be sure that the youth, too, will care in time of the Nation's need.
Mr. PUCINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Rothstein. Mr. Daniels?
Mr. DANIELS. Mr. Chairman, I have no questions to put to Mr. Rothstein except that I want to commend him for coming down here and taking time out from his very, very busy life to advise this committee of the support of the neighborhood councils of which he is president, which is endorsing this bill in its entirety.
Mr. ROTHSTEIN. I might add two factors. We are in the midMorrisania Avenue section of the Bronx, which comprises 267,000 people. Between 25 and 40 percent of that area are families at below poverty level; incomes for the families is less than $3,000. Each of those families has two or three children. Those are the children that are concentrated in the area of Clarement and are the ones who need this program.