Opinion - Gebhart

The following is a summary of the evidence relating to the facilities of the two schools:

(1) Public Funds.
No contention is made of any inequality of financial treatment. It affirmatively appears that Howard receives the same treatment as the other Wilmington high schools and (so far as comparison can be made) the same treatment as Claymont.

(2) Buildings.
The Howard building proper and the Claymont building are admittedly equal, except that the Howard gymnasium is insufficient for physical education, and some instruction must be given in the Walnut Y.M.C.A. gymnasium, distant three and one-half blocks from Howard. The Carver building is a very old one and markedly inferior. We approve the Chancellor's finding, not seriously challenged by the defendants, that the physical plant at Howard-Carver is substantially inferior to that at Claymont.

(3) Sites.
Claymont, in a suburban community, is on a site of fourteen acres; the Howard building proper, in an urban community, on a site of three and one-half acres. The Carver building is on a plot with about forty feet of land on either side of the building and no land in front or play space in the rear. There is testimony, not denied, that the space at Carver is inadequate as a playground for pupils in that building.

As between Claymont and Howard proper, the Claymont playing space is larger and includes regulation athletic fields, but Howard has the use, exclusive when required, of Kirkwood Park, a public park of ten and one-half acres adjacent to the site of the Howard building, which has, however, no regulation playing fields. As for organized athletics, Howard, like the Wilmington High School, has the use of the athletic fields of the P. S. duPont High School and the George Gray School, each at least half a mile distant from the Howard building.

So far as concerns physical education there is no testimony in the record that the playground space available to Howard-Carver is inadequate for that purpose. The inadequacy of Howard-Carver in respect of physical education appears to be attributable to the insufficiency of the gymnasium, above noted.

In respect of esthetic considerations, the Claymont site is admitted to be superior.

The defendants argue that, disregarding Carver, the difference in sites as between Claymont and Howard lies in esthetic considerations only and that this difference is not in itself a substantial inequality. We are inclined to agree that if these two schools were substantially equal in all other respects such a difference would hardly justify a finding of substantial inequality; but in this case esthetic considerations do not stand alone. All other considerations apart, the playground space of Carver is concededly inadequate.

The Chancellor also found that the playing space available to Howard proper as well as at Carver is inadequate; but this finding appears to rest solely on the lack of regulation fields in Kirkwood Park, and we do not think that the evidence justifies a finding that any of the plaintiffs has suffered injury from this lack. However, for the purpose of the trial and decision of the case below Howard-Carver was treated as a unit, and on this basis the finding of substantial inequality in respect of the sites is justified.

In this connection we add an observation in connection with the Chancellor's comments with respect to the relative advantages and disadvantages of urban and suburban schools. In our opinion substantial inequality between two schools does not result from the mere fact that one is in the suburbs and another in the city. The question is always whether there are differences between the schools of such a nature as to make them substantially unequal. Indeed the policy of consolidation of schools, apparently proceeding at an increasing rate, necessarily requires more and more pupils to attend a school situated in a community of a different type from that in which they live. It may reasonably be inferred that in the opinion of authorities on education school attendance in one's own community is not an important attribute of educational opportunity.

(4) Accreditation.
Both schools are approved by the Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools of the Middle States and Maryland.

(5) Curriculum.
Plaintiffs adduced testimony from an expert witness, who made a survey of both schools, to the effect that the Claymont curriculum in respect of college preparatory work was superior to that of Howard, seven courses, it was stated, being offered at Claymont that are not offered at Howard. It was established that one of these courses is no longer offered at Claymont, that four others (or their equivalents) are in fact offered at Howard, and that the other two are of minor importance. It is admitted that seven vocational courses are offered at Howard that are not offered at Claymont. There is no evidence that any of the plaintiffs is denied any course of instruction that he seeks. The Chancellor made no finding of inequality in respect of the curriculum, and we think he was right. The evidence shows that they are substantially equal.

(6) Faculty and Instruction.
Claymont has 404 high school pupils with 20 teachers, a pupil-teacher ratio of 20.1. Howard has 1274 pupils with 53 teachers, a ratio of 24. Of the teachers at Claymont, 59% hold master's degrees, and 36% bachelor's degrees. Of the teachers at Howard, 38% hold master's degrees and 49% bachelor's degrees. One teacher at Claymont holds no degree and five teachers at Howard (three of them vocational) hold no degree. The average annual salary at Howard is higher than that at Claymont by $ 169. We find no evidence in the record of the length of experience of the teachers of either school. The methods of instruction are modern in both schools.

A comparison of the size of the classes in eight different subjects shows that at Howard classes in five of these subjects were larger, though not substantially larger3, than at Claymont, and in two subjects the Howard classes are slightly smaller. In one subject, Physical Education, the disparity is substantial, the average class at Claymont being 24.88 and at Howard 43.67, with some classes so large (one with an enrollment of 88) as probably to prevent satisfactory instruction.

Viewing the situation as a whole, we think that plaintiffs have clearly shown substantial inequality in one respect, that of instruction in Physical Education, which (we infer from the record) is a required course at Howard for all pupils except for those excused for cause. It is evidently related to the inadequacy of the Howard gymnasium, already noted. We cannot agree with the Chancellor, however, that the other differences (pupil-teacher ratio, formal teacher training, and average size of classes) represent substantial inequality. They seem to us to be such differences as might be found between any two high schools, whether for whites or Negroes. As against the differences in the formal training of teachers, it is to be noted that the testimony from both sides indicates that it is still not unusual for vocational teachers to lack academic degrees, and that the larger number of such teachers at Howard appears fairly attributable to the emphasis in Howard on vocational training. It further appears that the general policies of the Wilmington Board of Education, which include a policy to avoid as far as possible the employment of teachers without academic degrees, have been as nearly accomplished in Howard as in any other public school in Wilmington. As for the average size of the classes, it appears that the Chancellor's finding of substantial inequality was based in great part upon the fact that several classes at Howard exceeded twenty-five in number, and upon his conclusion that a pupil-teacher ratio of twenty-five to one 'has been fixed by the State educational authorities as a desirable maximum'. This conclusion does not appear to be supported by the record. It is clear to us, from the testimony of the Director of Research of the State Board of Education and of the Assistant State Superintendent in charge of secondary schools, that the ratio derives directly from the legislative policy establishing the method of allotting state funds for the employment of teachers, and bears no necessary relation to the size of any particular class.4 Moreover, since principals and specialists are included in the determination of the ratio for the allotment of funds, the actual ratio of pupils to teachers usually exceeds the ratio for fund allotments. A tendency to smaller classes is said to be desirable, but we do not find any formal fixation by the State authorities of a desirable maximum size. In short, we do not think the evidence on these matters discloses anything more than such variations as are inevitable concomitants of the administration of any school system.