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sons conceiving themselves aggrieved; but as litigation in the courts is expensive, the cheaper remedy is usually sought, and the duty of determining the cases presented to him, becomes the most important, as well as the most arduous, of his duties. In these cases, the whole law connected with taxation and with the elective suffrage, and the great variety of questions arising under it, modi. fied by the special provisions of the statute relating to the common schools, are frequently involved, and his responsibility as a judicial officer is great, not only as regards a knowledge of the established legal rule in a given case, but as respects the propriety of ils application to the state of facts presented to him.
In conferring this jurisdiction on the officer having charge of the common schools, the leading object was to provide for the regular execution of the laws by which the system is governed, and for a prompt settlement of all questions arising under them. When it is considered that we have more than ten thousand school districts, and that every disputed question is liable to be brought, and is in fact, almost always brought before him for à decision, it must be manifest that the constant attendance of the Superintendent is necessary at the seat of government. In this part of the administration of the system, he can derive no aid from subordinates, excepting in registering his letters and orders. His post is essentially judicial, and all his decisions must be pronounced by himself. If he had the power of visiting the schools for the purpose of inquiring into their condition, he could not carry into effect the intention with which it would be given, or, if he did, it would be fol. lowed with very inconvenient results. No individual could inspect more than three schools per day, and at this rate the whole number in the State could not be examined in less than ten years by the same person. To withdraw the Superintendent for six months from his office, for any purpose, would throw upon him such an accumulation of business as would leave him in arrear for the residue of the year. In the mean time the interests of the schools would materially suffer, for want of the necessary authority to put controversies at rest. These controversies might be carried into the civil courts, but great expenses are usually incurred, and in the majority of cases, litigation in the courts for the very reason that it involves pecuniary loss to some of the parties, is fatal to the harmony of the district, in which it occurs, long after the controversy itself is disposed of by a judicial decision.
The welfare of the common schools, therefore, imperiously requires that the Superintendent should not be disturbed in the discharge of this part of his duty, by any arrangement incompatible with it.
The existing mode of disposing of disputed questions arising under the common school laws, has proved convenient in practice. If it has any defect, it is, that the Superintendent has no power by law to enforce the execution of his own decisions. They are, it is true, generally submitted to, without objection; but cases have occurred in which the proper officers have wholly refused to carry them into execution. There is a case in which the commissioners of common schools of a town, acting under the advice a legal man, who is aware of this defect in the law, have for two years wholly neglected and refused to pay over to a school district a sum of money which is equitably due to it, and to which it has become legally entitled under a decision of the Superintendent. The district has no alternative but to submit to the injury, or to incur the expense of an application to the supreme court for a mandamus to compel the payment. The amount due is inconsiderable, and the remedy is surrounded with so many inconveniences as to amount to nearly a complete denial of justice.
Commissioners of Common Schools. Three persons are appointed under this title at the annual meeting in each town. Their duties are to regulate the boundaries of the school districts within the towns for which they are chosen, to alter existing districts and form new ones when it becomés necessary for the convenience of the inhabitants. They receive from the county treasurer, with whom it is deposited, the quota of the revenue of the Common School Fund, to which the town is entitled, and from the collector of the town the equal amount raised upon its taxable property; and they-apportion these sums among the school districts of the town according to the number of children over five and under sixteen years of age, residing in each district, provided a school has been kept in it threc months, by a qualified teacher, during the preceding year, and provided also the school moneys received in that year, have been applied to the compensation of such teacher. They receive the annual reports of the trustees of the school districts, and from them prepare a consolidated report, setting forth certain particulars specified in the statute to be transmitted to the Superintendent.
There is a defect in the statute in relation to the commissioners of common schools, which requires some legal remedy. In many cases these officers receive for distribution to the common schools, from $1,000 to $1,500. The only security which the public has for a faithful execution of the trust, is their personal integrity. In most cases this proves a sufficient safeguard. But it is not so in all. During the last three years it has repeatedly happened, that a commissioner has absconded with school moneys to a con siderable amount in his hands, and the entire loss has fallen upon the school districts. Ought not these officers to give bonds for the faithful application of the funds confided to them? The general policy of the law is to exact such security whenever a pecuniary trust is delegated. Town collectors are required to give bonds for the faithful execution of their duties. Constables are required to give bonds conditioned for the payment over of all moneys collected by them. The collector of a school district, whenever a warrant is delivered to him for the collection of moneys, may be required by the trustees to execute a bond, conditioned for the faithful execution of his duties; and it is exceedingly rare that he has in his hands as great an ainount of money as the commissioners. Why should the latter be exempt from providing the same security, which is exacted from other individuals executing pecuniary trusts, and which, as repeated examples of defalcation have shown, . is necessary to render the application of the school moneys to their proper objects certain ? It is respectfully submitted to the Legislature, whether the commissioners of common schools in each town, should not be required immediately after their election, to appoint one of their number to receive all the public moneys and pay them out to the districts, the individual so appointed to be deemed the treasurer of the board, and to give bonds for the faithful execution of his duties. The other two would not be required to give bonds, nor would they incur any pecuniary responsibility. Should such a provision be made, the security to be given might be, like the town collector's bond, approved by the supervisor, and filed, like the constable's bond, in the office of the town clerk.
Inspectors of Common Schools. Three inspectors of common schools are annually chosen in each town. Their duties are to examine all persons offering themselves as candidates for teaching common schools in the town; to visit (Assem. No. 6.]
all the common schools at least once in each year; and they may "give their advice and direction to the trustees and teachers of such schools, as to the government thereof, and the course of studies to be pursued therein."
The commissioners of common schools have, by virtue of their office; the same powers, so that there are always six persons in each town authorized to act as inspectors.
In the examination of a candidate for teaching, if the inspectors are satisfied that he is qualified with respect to moral character, learning and ability, they give him a certificate. He is then a qualified teacher for one year, unless his certificate is previously annulled on a re-examination, which the inspectors may require if they deem it necessary. So long as he holds a certificate dated within one year, he may receive the public money as a compensation in whole or in part for his services. Trustees of school districts may employ a teacher who has not been inspected, or who on an examination, has not been deemed qualified by the inspectors; but no such teacher can receive any portion of the public money for his wages.
All examinations must be made at a regular meeting called for the purpose, and attended by at least three inspectors.
It must be manifest on the slightest consideration, that the success of the common school system, so far as concerns the great ends of education, will depend in a higher degree on the inspectors than on any other class of officers connected with its administration. With them it lies to fix the standard of qualification for teachers, and thus to determine the amount of ability, which the latter shall bring to their tasks.
If the requirements of the inspectors are small, the qualifications of the teachers will, as a general rule, be slender, and to these the standard of education in the town will gra. dually conform. In practice, the rule has perhaps been reversed The inspectors have usually, in granting certificates, been influenced by the state of education in the town, and have thus conformed to an existing standard, instead of establishing a new one of a higher grade. The superintendent has therefore uniformly urged upon the inspectors the importance of assuming a high standard of qualification, and of requiring all candidates to be tried by it. That this duty is not always properly discharged is not to be disguised. Inspectors have sometimes given a certificate of qualifi
cation to a teacher for a summer-school, and, at the expiration of the term, annulled it upon the ground that he was incompetent to teach a winter-school, which is usually attended by a larger pryportion of older scholars. This distinction is wholly unauthorized by law, and whenever an opportunity has offered, it has been condemned in pointed terms. It is no hardship to adopt, in all cases, the highest standard of requirement. School districts, it is true, are often of very small pecuniary ability; but in order to entitle a school district to a share of the income of the Common School Fund, the statute, demands only that a qualified teacher shall be annually employed for three months. It does not even require that a school shall be kept by any teacher for a longer period. There is no school district, which is not capable of complying with this rule, even if a teacher of undoubted qualifications were in all cases to be required. Inspectors should, therfore, aim to advance the standard of requirement for teachers as much as possible. Without their aid opinion may do something, but it is in their power, by setting up a higher rule of qualification, and enforcing a strict conformity to it in every case, to elevate the character of the common schools, to a grade which would leave little else to be desired. As will be seen in another part of this report, ample provision has recently been made by law for the education of teachers, and the inspectors may, in the manner above suggested, become in an eminent degree instrumental in securing employment for them.
There is another part of their duty of equal importance in its consequences, if it is faithfully and efficiently discharged. They are authorized to give "their advice and direction,” “as to the course of studies to be pursued” in the common schools. This is a power involving in its exercise the greatest responsibility: and although it might be limited by a narrow construction of the law, to a right to direct the order in which the particular studies chosen by some other authority should be pursued, it can hardly be taken, when viewed in connexion with the other provisions of the statute in relation to the inspectors, in so restricted a sense. Indeed the phrase “course of studies” in its technical acceptation must be understood as comprehending a particular series of subjects, and the particular order in which they are to be studied. Certain it is, that the inspectors have in some towns taken upon themselves to direct the studies to be pursued in the common schools within their jurisdiction; and in one case an application was made to the Superintendent to define the limits of their au