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collector, who is allowed 5 per cent on all moneys collected by him, is saved by the person or persons making such payment.
These provisions constitute the entire law for the compensation of teachers. They are founded upon the principle, that the income of the Common School Fund, with an equal amount raised by taxation, and such further sum not exceeding that amount, as may be voted by the inhabitants of towns, shall be appropriated exclusively to that object; and that the residue shall be provided by those, whose children have the benefit of instruction.
This rule is, as respects the pecuniary ability of the contributors, often unequal. Thus, a man worth one thousand dollars, who sends four children to school, pays four times as much as a man worth ten thousand dollars, who sends only one child to school; but, on the other hand, the compensation of teachers is but a part of the expense of the common school system, and, as will be seen hereafter, property is very largely taxed for other objects.
2. The construction of school-houses, and supplying them with ne
cessary fuel and appendages. The whole expense of purchasing a lot, building a school-house, and furnishing it with a few indispensable articles, as a stove, water-pail, broom, wood-house, &c. is paid by the taxable property of each school district. But no tax for these objects can be levied unless it is voted at a regular meeting of the inhabitants, by a majority of the persons present. The tax having been voted in the manner required by law, it is assessed upon the persons residing in the district, according to their taxable property, as ascertained by the roll made by the town assessors for town and county purposes. If a tax for fuel is not voted, it is furnished by the persons sending children to school, in proportion to the number of days of attendance. But if any one neglects on the request of the trustees, to furnish his quota, they are authorized to provide it for him, and charge the amount against him for collection in the rate bill.
The expense of this part of the system is defrayed by a tax on property, excepting the single case in which fuel is furnished in kind. And if in respect to the compensation of teachers, taxable property may in some cases appear to be unduly favored, it often happens in this case, that it contributes largely to the expenses of
the common schools, without deriving any direct benefit from them. A man of wealth may never have sent a child to school in the district in which he resides, and yet his property is taxed to build a school-house, keep it in repair, and furnish it with fuel. It is not designed by presenting this view of the subject, to impugn the justice of the rule. On the contrary, it is believed to be perfectly just on account of the interest which every man of property has in securing, through the moral and intellectual improvement of those who surround him, a substantial basis for that public order and tranquillity, without which the tenure of his possessions would be uncertain and precarious.
On a careful examination of the whole subject, it will be apparent that the proportions in which the expenses of the common school system are provided for by those who educate their children in the common schools, and by the possessors of property deriving no direct benefit from them, are as well adjusted to the accomplishment of the objects of the institution as is practicable.
Property, as such, pays the entire expense of building and repairing school-houses; besides which, it always pays a sum towards the compensation of teachers, equal to the amount paid by the Common School Fund, and it may pay double that amount. On the other hand, those who send children to the common schools pay somewhat more than four-sevenths of the entire compensation of the teachers, and furnish their children with school books. By regarding extreme cases on either side, some inequality is apparent. But a vast majority of those who educate their children in the common schools, are abundantly able on the score of pecuniary ability, to do so: and wherever an individual has children without the means of educating them, the trustees of the district may exempt him from the payment of any part of the tea
The exemption takes place at the close of the term. Until that time the children of such a man meet all the others in the district on terms of entire equality in the school. No child can be excluded from it on account of the inability of his parent to pay for his tuition. It is to be regarded as a settled principle, that the school is open !o all the children residing in the district; and nothing short of a degree of impurity of conduct and character, too gross for association with others, would justify the trustees in excluding a child even temporarily from it.
If the expenses of the common school system were all defrayed by a public fund and by property, it is apprehended that the worst effects would ensue. A man with a large number of children, may sometimes feel the expense of their education a burden. But his contributions, for the very reason that they are made with some difficulty, give him a deep interest in seeing that the affairs of the district are managed with economy and prudence. The effect of the present mode of providing for the expenses of the system, is undoubtedly to surround it with interested and careful observers, who will be vigilant in detecting abuses and prompt in seeking the proper redress.
The Prussian system is maintained upon a plan very similar 10 ours, so far as its expenses are concerned. The government pays something towards the support of the schools. The property of the vicinage pays something more, and the residue is paid by those who send their children to school, or, in the language of Mr. Cousin, “ those who actually profit by these establishments,” (schools.]
The Common School Fund affords nothing more than an inducement to the inhabitants of school districts to tax themselves for the support of their schools. The whole annual expense of the system is about $1,300,000. This sum, divided by the number of children who have received instruction, gives an average annual expenditure of $2.40 per scholar. The Common School Fund pays but 181 cents per scholar. Add to this the equal sum raised by taxation, and the amount derived from local (i. e. town) funds, and it is but 40$ cents per scholar. But as this amount can only be paid to school districts which have had schools kept three months during the preceding year, by a teacher duly inspected and qualified, it secures, small as it is, a voluntary contribution of nearly $2 per scholar for the purpose of obtaining it.
3. The purchase of school books. Every person sending a child to school, must provide the necessary school books. There is no provision by law for indigent persons. Possibly there should be. But it may safely be said, that the case rarely, if ever occurs, in which a poor child is not furnished with the necessary books, through the liberality of individuals.
Superintendence. The Secretary of State is, by virtue of his office, Superintendent of Common Schools.
His duties are: 1. To sumbit to the Legislature an annual report; exhibiting the condition of the Common School Fund, and of the schools, and all such matters relating to his office and the schools as he may deem expedient to communicate.
2. To apportion the income of the Common School Fund among the several towns and cities of the State. The apportionment is made according to the ratio of their population, compared with the population of the whole State. The census is taken once in ten years by act of Congress, and on every alternate fifth year by the State, so that a new apportionment is made once in five years. When a new town is created, an apportionment is made between it and the towns from which it was formed according to the best evidence in the power of the Superintendent. The basis, which he has been accustomed to assume in such cases, is the number of children between the ages of five and sixteen years, residing within each portion of the divided territory. As the children are annually enumerated in every town, it affords the most ready criterion for determining the amount of money which the several parts of the territory in question should receive; and on the score of equity, is as free from objection as the ratio of population. To this standard, however, all such cases must be brought after the next ensuing census is taken.
3. To prepare suitable forms and regulations, for making all reports, and conducting all proceedings, under the title of the Statutes relating to common schools, and to transmit them, “ with such instructions as he shall deem necessary and proper for the better organization and government of common schools,” to the officers concerned in the administration of the system.
Under this provision a very important question has arisenwhether it confers on the Superintendent authority to give his advice or directions as to the course of study to be pursued, or the books to be used in the common schools. The present Superintendent, and his predecessor in office, have acted upon the assumption that it was not intended to confer such power; and in this construction of the law, they are supported by an opinion expressed by the committee of literature of the Senate of this State, in the year 1825, as the result of an investigation growing out of an act of a former Superintendent, done under a different view of the
subject. Under these circumstances, the Superintendent would certainly not feel justified in attempting to exert such an authority, if his own opinion were in favour of his right to do so.
The authority of directing the course of study to be pursued in the common schools, is a very delicate and responsible one, and it ought not to be exercised unless it is given in express terms. To give “instructions for the better organization and government of common schools,” might seem at first glance to include such an authority; but this construction is hardly to be reconciled with the fact that the Statute has, in a subsequent article, as will be hereafter seen, placed in other hands the right to direct “the course of studies" to be pursued in the common schools, unless it be upon the supposition that the power was designed to be concurrent, in which case it is natural to presume, that it would have been conferred in both instances in the same terms.
4. The Superintendent has an appellate jurisdiction in all mat
appeal arising under the statute relating to common schools. The supreme court has said that any person conceiving himself aggrieved concerning any “maiter under the present title, (which includes the whole of the school act,) may appeal to the Superintendent of Common Schools, whose decision shall be final. This provision was intended for what it practically is, a cheap and expeditious inode of settling most, if not all of the difficulties and disputes arising in the course of the execution of the law. A common law certiorari would no doubt lie from this court, to the trustees (of a school district] to bring up and correct any erroneous proceeding not concluded by an adjudication of the Superintendent, or in a case where his powers were inadequate to give the relief to which the party was entitled.”
This construction is in accordance with the terms of the statute, which are very broad, and were probably designed to give him the power of putting at rest all controversies arising in the administration of the system of which he has the supervision. His decision in all matters of appeal is final, and every case brought before him is disposed of without expense to the parties, excepting such as is incurred in the preparation of their papers, which are, however, always received without regard to form, if they are in substance correct. Although the Superintendent has so extensive a jurisdiction in matters of appeal, the civil courts are open to per