The third Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Arthur S. Flemming, was sworn in August 1, 1958. A native of New York, he had been president of Ohio Wesleyan University.
Stimulated in part by the launching of the first earth satellite by the U.S.S.R., interest in American education increased dramatically in 1958. The President's Committee on Education Beyond the High School reported that by 1969 from 180,000 to 270,000 new college teachers must be recruited. The shortage of qualified teachers in elementary and secondary schools had grown to 130,000. The classroom shortage stood at 142,000. A survey by the Office of Education showed that of the 2,776,000 students enrolled in 11th and 12th grades of public high schools in 1956, only 830,000 were studying science and 659,000 were studying mathematics. About 100,000 seniors were in schools where no advanced mathematics of any kind were taught. In addition, the United States was found to be weaker in the teaching of foreign languages than any other major country in the world.
In partial response to this educational gap, Congress passed and the President signed on September 2, 1958, the National Defense Education Act, which set up a program of about $900 million in Federal aid to education. The Act provided support to guidance, counseling and testing, support for expanded and improved teaching of science, mathematics, and foreign languages, area vocational training, the training of more college teachers and language specialists, for research in use of television and other modern media, and it made loans available for deserving college students.
Amendments to the Social Security Act, effective October 1, 1958, increased the amount of Federal funds available to the States for public assistance and greatly increased appropriations for three grant programs of the Children's Bureau: maternal and child health services; crippled children's services; and child welfare services.
On June 26, 1959, SSA marked the 25th anniversary of the Federal Credit Union Act. Total assets of federally chartered credit unions had passed the $2 billion level and active membership exceeded 5 million.
The Department reported that in the 5 years since the 1954 amendments to Federal vocational rehabilitation legislation, more than 350,000 persons had been rehabilitated. Among them were 17,000 entering professions, 38,000 beginning skilled trades and 30,000 entering agriculture. The total cost of the rehabilitation was estimated at $14 million. The earnings of the entire group after rehabilitation in their first full year of employment was estimated to be $156 million.
On July 31, 1959, the President approved the Indian Sanitation Facilities Act, which authorized the Public Health Service to construct domestic and community sanitation facilities for Indians.
The White House Conference on Children and Youth was held in Washington from March 27 to April 2, 1960, involving a great deal of staff work on the part of the Department. About 7,600 persons attended the meetings, including 1,400 youngsters and 500 visitors from foreign countries. A total of 670 recommendations were formulated by the conference. The Children's Bureau made an intensive study of the recommendations and how they could be implemented through its various programs. The findings were expected to influence child life for years to come.
The 1960 Amendments to the Social Security Act authorized research and demonstration projects in the field of child welfare. The amendments also increased Federal participation in health care assistance for the aged, liberalized the retirement test, increased benefits for children of deceased workers, and removed the age 50 limitation for disability benefits.
Social Security celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1960. SSA reported that in June 1960, almost 14.3 million persons were receiving benefits. Of these beneficiaries, 11.5 million were age 62 or over, 2.4 million were young survivors and dependents and 371 ,000 were disabled workers age 50-64. Annual benefit payments had reached $10.8 billion. The 1960 amendments were expected to add 1,075,000 persons to social security rolls.
The public assistance programs also marked a quarter century of service in 1960. SSA, which was administering them, reported that nearly 5.8 million persons were receiving public assistance payments of more than $3.3 billion. The Federal share was 58.6 percent, the State share was 33.7 percent, and the local share was 7.7 percent.
By FY 1961, 10 years after the impacted aid program began, school assistance to federally affected areas had grown from $119.5 million to $266.9 million, of which $59.2 million represented construction aid and $207.7 million represented aid for school operating expenses.
In May 1960, the PHS Hospital at Lexington, Kentucky celebrated its 25th anniversary of service in the treatment of narcotic addiction. Also, the first Public Health Service Hospital for Indians was dedicated on May 21, 1960, at Shiprock, New Mexico.
The international health research programs of PHS were expanded by the International Health Research Act, July 12, 1960.
The Office of Education reported that after three years of operating under the Library Services Act of 1956-designed to extend library services to rural areas-30 million rural people were enjoying new or improved library services and 5 million books and other information materials had been added to resources of rural communities.
The National Center for Health Statistics was established in August 1960, to bring together major elements of the Public Health Service which measure the status of the Nation's health.
On September 1, 1960, the Division of Air Pollution was established in PHS to accelerate research in this vital area.
Later that month, a new program of Medical Assistance for the Aged (MAA) was established with the passage of Public Law 86-778.
A landmark meeting, the White House Conference on Aging, was held in Washington, D. C. during the closing days of the Eisenhower Administration, January 9-12, 1961, and was attended by 2,565 official delegates. The recommendations of the conference were to have a profound impact on the national policy for older citizens for years to come.
Later that month, the Social Security Administration began recording on magnetic tape payment histories for all beneficiaries and updating these records daily, one of the earliest steps toward computerization of social security records.