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HARRISBURG, JUNE 20, 1837.
We have the honor to be,
THO. H. BURROWES,
NATH. P. HOBART.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth, as Superintendent of Common
school districts, (being four fifths of the whole number,) $160,000 From taxation in the same districts, including the city and county
of Philadelphia, for the support of the Lancasterian system therein,
400,000 Annual expense of teaching poor children in the non-accepting
districts, (being one fifth of all the districts in the State,) under the old law for educating the poor gratis,
Total amount of one year's public instruction, in primary schools,
In addition to this, there will be paid out of the State Treasury, during the year, four fifths of the school-house fund of five hundred thousand dollars, appropriated by the Legislature at its last session. This sum of four hundred thousand dollars, not being an annual expenditure, but a present outlay for the benefit of the future, should not be charged among the expenses of one year. Including, however, this sum, the whole amount to be expended during the present year, for the purposes of public education in primary schools, will be not less than a million of dollars, of which something more than one half will be paid by the State, and the remainder by taxation.
IN ACADEMIES. Of the public cost of academies the department possesses little information. It is believed that no portion of their expenses are defrayed by annual taxation. Academies, in forty-five counties have, from time to time, received aid from the State, sometimes in money, generally in the proportion of two thousand dollars to each county, amounting to one hundred and six thousand nine hundred dollars ; and sometimes in land, whose value it is difficult to estimate, but supposed to be worth at least one hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars, making a gross amount of aid to academies, of two hundred and forty-one thousand dollars.
It is believed that no grants have ever been made by the State, with less general good effect than those to academies. It seems to have been intended to endow one strong institution of this kind in each county, as a kind of radiating point in the county system of education ; but the project has proved nearly a total failure. In obedience to a resolution of the Legislature, efforts were made, last summer,.to ascertain the condition of the county academies; and the result was, that only seventeen were reported to be in operation, the total number of whose students was one thousand one hundred and eleven. Many of those that yet survive, are considerably in debt.
IN COLLECES. The public cost of colleges has also been in the form of occasional donations, either in money or land. The total aid in money amounts to two hundred and twenty-four thousand six hundred and sixty-six dollars, and in land 10 about nineteen thousand dollars, making a gross amount of grants to colleges, heretofore, of two hundred and sixty thousand dollars. The whole number of institntions of this kind, incorporated in Pennsylvania, is believed to be fourteen, of which eleven are in operation.
All the information on the subject of colleges and academies, possessed by this department, will be found in the annual report of the Superintendent, submited to the last Legislature, particularly in tables E, F, and G, appended to that document. 2. ESTIMATE OF THE SUM SUFFICIENT FOR EDUCATING ALL THE CHILDREN IN THE STATE.
IN PRIMARY SCHOOLS. The whole number of children in the State, between the ages of five and fifteen, is about three hundred and twenty thousand; of whom, together with those of a more advanced age, probably not more than two hundred and twenty thousand will attend school at one time in the year. The
being a decrease equal to one fourth of the whole amount. In this estimate, WA
eost of instructing each pupil in the common school, after the system shal
After the lapse of four or five years, the cost of common school instruc-
IN ACADEMIES AND COLLEGES.
The best mode of affording useful, permanent and invigorating assistance
PENNSYLVANIA CONVENTION, 1837.
9 It is a feeling which stirs into action every motive to honorable emulation. No academy in the State would remain quiescent a single year, under the influence of such an incentive. Thus, no matter what the motive, the public would reap a benefit beyond all proportion greater than the expense ; and the State would render productive and useful the capital already invested in these, at present, nearly useless institutions.
The same would be the effect on the colleges. All would be stimulated to fresh and vigorous exertion; and in a short time, the number would be necessarily reduced to one better proportioned to the wants of the the State than the present. The contest would then be, not one of management to obtain governmental or contributed aid, but of merit to deserve it; and none but meritorious and really necessary institutions, could long maintain the struggle. The chief defect of the collegiate system of Pennsylvania, which is the too great number of her institutions, would soon disappear, and a few healthy, flourishing, and creditable to the Commonwealth, would remain to adorn and strengthen her system of education. 3. BEST METHOD OF RAISING THE NECESSARY FUNDS.
LITERARY FUND. In describing the nature and necessity of a fund for the assistance of colleges and academies, the source from which it must come, if it ever be created, and the manner of distributing it, have been named. Nothing further need, therefore, be said on the subject.
COMMON SCHOOL FUND.
In determining the best means of raising the funds necessary to defray the expenses of the Common School System, the sources from which they are to be derived, the proportions to be derived from each source, and the manner of collection, are all to be considered.,
With regard to the sources, necessity has already determined them. The condition of the State Treasury limits the amount derivable from that quarter at a sum far below the real wants of the system. The residue, therefore, is necessarily obtained from direct taxation. By existing laws the proportion raised by tax, cannot be less than equal to that given by the State, as annual appropriation, but is really on an average at least two and one half times that amount.
As to the proportion of school money which should be given by the State and that which should be obtained from taxation, so as best to comport with the views of theorists on this point, the undersigned hazards no opinion. In asserting that the amount of taxation ought not to be increased beyond its present sum, which he most unequivocally does, reference is had more to the known opposition of our citizens to a school tax, than to any abstract reasoning or minute calculation of the relative advantages of school funds as compared with direct taxation. In other States and countries where the system has been long in existence, and is placed on the solid foundation of public favor, it may be proper and safe to make the whole support of a common school system rest upon annual taxation, as a means of stimulating the exertions and exciting the interest of the people in its behalf. In Pennsylvania another and a previous object is to be accomplished. With us the first measure is to remove prejudice and to render the system acceptable to the citizens. When that feeling is once fully
aroused, which will yet take years of patient exertion, it will be time enough to ascertain what quantum of the so called taxation stimulus will be requisite to keep it alive. At present the best means of aiding the cause of common school education is to forbear coupling it, to any extent that can possibly be avoided, with the unpopularity of the tax collector, and to sustain it, as far as practicable, out of the State Treasury.
Every exertion should be made to raise the amount of State appropriation to the annual sum of three hundred thousand dollars, which would completely turn the balance of public opinion in favor of the system, and would still leave an amout of tax, so light as not to be burthensome, yet so considerable as to keep the eye of public attention beneficially fixed on its expenditures.
An account of the condition of the permanent Common School Fund, established by the act of 20 April, 1831, and formed of the proceeds of the sale of public lands and the late State tax on personal and real property, will be found in the accompanying statement furnished by the Auditor General. From that document it appears that the annual interest of the fund will amount to one hundred thousand dollars, on the 1st April, 1842 ; which, according to the aet creating it, would have been the day when the proceeds of the fund would become actually applicable to the purposes of teaching. That desirable event was, however, anticipated by the nineteenth section of the school law of 1st April, 1834, and by the eleventh section of that of June 13, 1836. So that the State appropriation from the school fund and from the general State Treasury is now annually one hundred thousand dollars from the State Treasury, and one hundred thousand dollars, payable by the Bank of the United States under the sixth section of its charter aet, making a present distributive annual sum of two hundred thousand dollars.
It may also be proper here to reinark, that the permauent school fund will be increased by the operation of the act of27th February, 1837, which regulates the temporary disposition of this State's portion of the surplus revenue, and adds the interest of it to the school fund. The interest pavable the present year by the deposite banks, under that act, will amount to about seventy-five thousand dollars, which is to be added to the principal of the common school fund. Should the annual distribution of the national surplus means be continued, this source of increase to the fund will soon add materially to the strength of the system.
The amount of taxation, it is believed, should be limited to the bare wants of the system, and should not be made arbitrarily, and in all cases to equal any particular sum of State appropriation. Whenever an amount of tax less than the amount of State appropriation will, with that appropriation, be more than sufficient 10 keep the schools in operation the requisite time, which in most instances would be nine months in the year, the districts should be permited to decrease their tax to that standard. No absolute minimum of taxation should he required, except for the purpose of causing a sufficient number of schools io le kept in operation, during a proper portion of the year, for the instruction of all the children of the district. When that desirable and main nhjert of the system is achieved, the burthen of taxation should be lightened as much as possible. By such an arrangement taxation will come in to the aid of the permanent school fund, which seems to be its proper duty, and will be graduated to the actual wants of the system.