Page images

parents raise voluntarily more than both sums united. The experience of this State shows that it is not only wise, but necessary, not only in the outset of a school system, but at all times, to provide liberally but not exclusively, by state endowment, for the support of public instruction. The expense of maintaining a sufficient number of schools for all the children of a state, no matter how economical may be the arrangements, or how limited in amount or defective in quality the education given, is necessarily large. If left to parents, this expense will not be met universally, for although the intelligent, the considerate, and the wealthy will provide liberally and promptly, at home or abroad, for the education of their own children, there will be found ignorant, vicious, reckless and intemperate parents, whose children will remind them only of physical wants to be supplied, and not of that moral and mental culture necessary to fit them for present usefulness and immortal destinies. İf left to the towns, the means will be unequal, uncertain and insufficient, as shown by the large number of persons of mature age, many of them natives of the state, who cannot read or write, or at least read and write so imperfectly that these attainments are of no practical value, either in the way of pleasure, business or self culture. If the expense is assumed in part by the state, without requiring or securing indirectly any corresponding effort on the part of all the towns, the schools will be of various degrees of merit and demerit, according to the degree of public spirit and liberality, or the want of both, in the several towns.

In the present state of the public schools, and of the public mind in regard to them, in different towns and districts, it would be almost equally disastrous to diminish the amount of the state appropriation, or to leave the schools without any additional resource. The amount now received, when increased by an equal or nearly equal amount from taxation, as is done in some of the towns, is sufficient to maintain the public schools at a point of excellence and usefulness, reached in towns of the same population and wealth in other parts of New England. While in those towns where nothing is done by town, district or parental taxation, the state money is barely sufficient to employ for three or four months, a teacher who is either young and inexperienced, or if advanced in life, has had a defective education, and in some instances, to my own knowledge, had better be any thing else than a teacher, and any where than in a school-room.

§ IIJ. The Commissioner of Public Schools is authorized, and it is made his duty

| 1. To apportion annually, in the month of May, the money appropriated to public schools, after deducting such sums as may be specifically appropriated by the General Assembly, among the several towns of the state, in proportion to the number of children under the age of fifteen years, according to the census taken under the authority of the United States, next preceding the time of making such apportionment.

Remarks. The principle on which the public money is distributed is nearly the same as in the existing law. It is recommended for its convenient application, but operates in many cases unequally. It would be better to have a census taken in each school district or town every year, and have the distribution based upon that.

2. To sign all orders on the General Treasurer, for the payment of Euch apportionment in favor of the treasurer of such towns as shall comply with the terms of this act, on or before the 1st of July annually.

Remarks. Under this paragraph the towns which do not comply with the requisition of this act, must lose their share of the state appropriation.

3. To prepare suitable forms and regulations for making all reports, and conducting all necessary proceedings under this act, and to transmit the same, with such instructions as he shall deem necessary and proper for the uniform and thorough administration of the school system, to the Town Clerk of each town, for distribution among the officers required to execute them.

Remarks. Without a provision of this kind there will be no regularity, fulness, or uniformity in the returns and reports of school officers, to the town or the General Assembly, or in the local administration of the same laws in different towns.

4. To adjust and decide, without appeal and without cost to the parties, all controversies and disputes arising under this act, which may be submitted to him for settlement and decision; the facts of which cases shall be stated in writing, verified by oath or affirmation if required, and accompanied by certified copies of all necessary minutes, contracts, orders and other documents.

Remarks. This provision will lead to the speedy, cheap and amicable settlement of numerous controversies which will unavoidably spring up in the local administration of the system, and which are now carried into the regular courts or the legislature, involving much expense for counsel fees, much delay, and not unfrequently bitter, wide spread and lasting dissatisfaction. The decision of the Commissioner in this paragraph is limited to cases voluntarily submitted by the parties interested. By Section XXXI. his power and duty are extended under certain circumstances.

5. To visit as often and as far as practicable, every town in the state, for the purpose of inspecting the schools, and diffusing as widely as possible by public addresses, and personal communication with school officers, teachers and parents, a knowledge of existing defects, and desirable improvements in the administration of the system, and the government and instruction of the schools.

Remarks. The Report of the Agent of Public Schools for this year will show some of the ways in which an officer charged with the broad and general duties contemplated in this paragraph, can advance the interest of public schools, and of popular education generally. Great as are the benefits which should result from the faithful discharge of his public duties, such as the visitation and examination of schools, and addresses in schools and public meetings, they are few and small, compared with the benefits which the Commissioner might, and ought to render in his personal communication with school officers, teachers, and parents.

6. To recommend the best text books, and secure, as far as practicable a uniformity, in the schools of at least every town, and to assist, when called upon, in the establishment of, and the selection of books for school libraries.

Remarks. On no one point is there a more earnest and general complaint, on the part of teachers and parents, than that of the multiplicity of school books, and on none, is there a a louder or more unanimous call for prompt and efficient action on the part of the Legislature. The experience of other states shows that the evil can not be reached by the independ. ent action of the town committees, and the opinion of the soundest educators is, that it would not be safe, or at least ex.. pedient to entrust the selection and prescription of books to a single officer. But by the joint action of the town committee, as provided for in Section V. 19, and the State Commissioner, as provided in the above paragraph, a uniformity of text books, as far as the same is desirable, could be effected in a short time.

The establishment of libraries of good books in various departments of knowledge, for the older as well as the younger members of the community, is one of the most important additions which can be made to the means of popular education in the State, and the usefulness of the libraries will depend much on the care with which they may be selected. It seemed, therefore, desirable to bring this subject directly within the scope of his official duties.

7. To establish at least one Model School and Teacher's Institute in each county, and one thoroughly organized Normal School in the state, where teachers, and such as propose to teach, may become acquainted with the most approved and successful methods of arranging the studies, and conducting the discipline and instruction of public schools.

Remarks. By a Model School, as the term is here used, is contemplated an ordinary primary or secondary public school, so organized, instructed and governed, that teachers of the county, or the neighborhood, and those who propose to teach, can be referred to it as a model, in all the essentials of a good school. To accomplish this, the Commissioner should be


directed, if called upon by the proper committee, to aid in the selection of a teacher, assist in the organization of the school, and advise as to the methods of instruction and governmentall of which would require more time than he would be authorized to devote to any one school, unless for the objects here specified, and under the sanction of the law.

By a Teacher's Institute, is meant all which is generally understood by a Teacher's Association, and something more. It is an organizat ion of the teachers of a town, county or state, for improvement in their profession, by meeting for a longer or shorter time for a thorough review of the studies of the public schools, under teachers of acknowledged reputation, as well as for lectures, discussions and essays on various methods of school discipline and instruction. One of the earliest attempts to establish these institutes, was made in Connecticut, under the auspices of the School Board of that State, in 1840.* They are now very numerous in the State of New-York, and have been productive of the happiest results.

By a Normal School is intended an institution for the training of young men and young women, who may show the proper talent and feeling to become teachers, under the direct instruction of able and experienced professors, with opportunities of witnessing and conducting the government and instruction of a model school, constituted in all their essential features like ordinary public schools. The experience of other states and countries has shown conclusively that these institutions are the most efficient and certain means of elevating the attainments, character and practical knowledge of teachers, and of improving rapidly the quality, and increasing the amount of education given in public schools, while it is applying to the preparation of teachers the same course which is adopted in every other profession or art.

The Commissioner could take no efficient measures for establishing such an institution without the authority of law, and the co-operation of the legislature or individuals.

8. To appoint such and so many inspectors in each county, as he shall, from time to time, deem necessary, to examine all persons offering theinselves as candidates for teaching public schools, and to visit, inspect, and report, concerning the public schools, under such instructions as said Commissioner may prescribe; Providedl, that as far as practicable such inspectors shall bé, or shall have been, experienced teachers, and shall serve without any allowance or compensation from the General Treasury.

Remarks. The experience of this as well as other states shows that it is not safe to entrust the examination of candidates for the office of teacher, or the inspection of schools, or the duty of reporting on their condition and improvement, exclu

* Connecticut Common School Journal, vol. II. page 52.

sively to the town committee. In some towns it is difficult to find those who are qualified for the office, or if qualified, willing to discharge its duties, or if willing and qualified in other respects, so far removed from the disturbing influences of local, personal, professional, religious, or political partiali. ties, as to be able to do the duty without fear or favor.

There will be no difficulty in selecting one or more persons in each county, combining all the requisite qualifications of ability, experience, willingness, and leisure, who, with the advice and co-operation of the Commissioner, will insist on higher qualifications in teachers,-subject the schools to a rigid examination, and report fully and faithfully on their condition. But if this temporary plan of county inspectors can be tried, in a few years a still more thorough and simple system of supervision can be matured, which, in connection with Teacher's İnstitutes, and a State Normal School, will give a great and rapid impulse to the cause of school improvement.

9. To grant certificates of qualification to such teachers as have been approved by one or more county inspectors, and shall give satisfactory evidence of their moral character, attainments, and ability to govern and instruct children.

Remarks. A certificate of qualification, based on the recommendation of a county inspector, and the personal knowledge of the Commissioner, cannot but facilitate the employment of any teacher possessing it, in any part of the state, and be accordingly valued by him, as well as for higher reasons.

10. To enter, or cause to be entered, in proper books to be provided for the purpose in his office, all decisions, letters, orders on the Treasurer, and other acts as Commissioner of Public Schools; and to submit to the General Assembly at the October session, an annual report containing, together with an account of his own doings,

First,-A statement of the condition of the public schools, and the means of popular education generally in the state;

Second, - Plans and suggestions for their improvement;

Third, - Such other matters relating to the duties of his office, as he may deem useful and proper to communicate.

Remarks. The record here provided for will secure uniformity in the administration of the system, and the annual report to the legislature will enable that body to see whether the funds of the state are wisely expended, and to introduce from time to time, such modifications and improvements in the school law as the practical working may show to be necessary or desirable.


§ IV. To provide for tħe education of all the children residing within their respective limits, the several towns and cities of the state are empowered and it shall be their duty

« PreviousContinue »