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thority, both with respect to the course of studies and the selection of school books; the inspectors having in the case referred to given their direction to the teacher on both those points. The matter was not brought before him in the shape of an appeal, and no decision was pronounced upon it: but with the consideration he had given to it, he was at the time strongly inclined to a construction of the law in favor of the right of the inspectors to direct the teachers of common schools within their jurisdiction as to the particular subjects, which should be taught. With regard to the right of the inspectors to direct what elass books shall be studied in the common schools, he would have entertained but little doubt. This is manifestly a larger power than that of determining what subjects of study shall be taught. To direct a particular class book to be used, not only prescribes the subject of which it treats, but includes a specification of the extent to which it shall be studied, and in some degree also the mode in which it shall be taught for the manner in which a subject is treated is often the most essential part of the treatise, so far as it is a vehicle of instruction. The power of prescribing class books, has not been given in express terms, nor is it perceived that it can be derived by implication from any of the powers delegated by law to the officers concerned in the supervision or management of the common schools. But with respect to subjects of study, the case is entirely different. The language of the law seems to sanction the construction which gives to the inspectors authority to direct what they shall be; and it is consistent with the other important division of their duties, which includes the examination of teachers, and determines their ability to give instruction in particular branches or subjects. The latter being fixed, the examination would have reference to them, and the standard of requirement be settled according to a just and uniform rule.
The exercise of the authority to direct teachers as to the subjects of study to be taught, is a very delicate and responsible duty; and, if it be wisely executed, it cannot fail to exert a most beneficial influence upon the common schools. But if the authority of the inspectors were restricted to the mere examination of teachers, they might make it highly efficient as an instrument of advancing the standard of education. They might decline to grant a teacher a certificate, unless he was qualified to give instruction in the branches or subjects which, in their opinion, ought to be taught in the common schools. Indeed, such is their duty now;
and independently of the obligation of performing it fearlessly and faithfully, there is, as has been already shown, no hardship in its performance, with respect to any of those who come within the sphere of their authority.
Trustees of School Districts. In each school district, there are annually chosen three trustees, whose duty it is, to call special meetings of the inhabitants whenever they deem it necessary; to make out all tax lists, when taxes are voted by the inhabitants of the district to build or repair the school-house; to provide fuel or to purchase a lot for a schoolhouse; to make out all rate bills (tuition bills] from the lists kept by the teachers; to exempt indigent persons from the payment of their proportion of such rate-bills; to have the custody of the district school-house; to contract with and employ all teachers, and to provide for the payment of their wages in the manner already explained under the head of “expenses.'
The trustees of school districts are the immediate representatives of the inhabitants; and as they owe their election to them, they may be considered as controlled by the public opinion of the districts in the discharge of their duty, so far as the law has left them any discretion as to the manner of performing it. They are charged with the management of the principal internal affairs of the district, and as the inhabitants residing within it pay more than three quarters of all the expenses of the school, the law has virtually deposited with them the control of almost all that concerns it. With respect to the formation of school districts, and the regulation of their boundaries, a different principle prevails. The commissioners of common schools, in whom this authority is vested, are town officers; they are chosen by the suffrages of all the electors, and though they may be said to be accountable to all the districts, the voters for town officers being composed substantially of the voters in school districts, they cannot be considered as controlled by the opinion of any particular district when it is at variance with others, in matters connected with the discharge of their duties. The same principle prevails with regard to the election of inspectors. They also are town officers, and the law has very properly confided the duty of pronouncing upon the qualification of teachers, and directing the course of studies to be pursued in the common schools, to individuals who, from the manner in which they are chosen, are not directly accountable to the in
habitants of any particular district. To return to trustees of school districts. Although the law has given them certain powers, the successful exercise of some of those powers must depend on its accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants. Thus the trustees have the absolute right of employing all teachers. But if they were to engage an individual, who for any reason was obnoxious to the inhabitants, the latter might refuse to send their children to school, and thus subject the trustees to some embarrassment in providing for the payment of his .wages. They might, it is true, pay him the public money; but as this would soon be exhausted, they wouid be obliged to collect the residue of those pera sons who sent their children to school, and the greater part of the burden would fall upon the trustees themselves, and the few who should favor their views. Under the Prussian system, this result could not happen, as all parents are required by law to send their children to school. The spirit of our common school system, is to refer almost all matters relating to the districts, which are of an internal or domestic character, to the inhabitants themselves; and from the organization of the districts, the powers of the trustees are necessarily exercised, so far as any discretion is admissible, in subordination to the opinion of the district. But where the law has prescribed positive rules for their government, those rules are, of course, to be obeyed, even though such obedience were to conflict with the wishes of the inhabitants.
It is proper to add in this place that, at the annual meeting of the inhabitants of each district, a collector and a clerk are chosen together with the trustees.
The duty of the collector is to collect and pay over to the trustees the amount of all tax-lists and rate-bills delivered to him for the purpose. The trustees may, before delivering to him any warrant for the collection of moneys, require him to give a bond, in double the amount of the sum to be collected, conditioned for the faithful execution of his duties.
The duty of the clerk is to keep a record of all the proceedings of the district, to give notice of the time and place for all meetings of the inhabitants, and to keep and preserve all books, &c. beinging to his office.
Under a law passed at the last session of the Legislature, authorizing the inhabitants of school districts to purchase district libraries, a librarian may also be chosen at the annual meeting.
Inhabitants of School Districts. In addition to the right of annually choosing officers for their respective districts, the inhabitants have power by a majority of votes to designate a site for the district school-house, and to lay taxes on the taxable property of the district to purchase a district library, and a suitable book case, to purchase or lease a site for a school-house, to build, hire or purchase such school-house, to keep it in repair, and to furnish it with necessary fuel and appendagcs. By the construction given to this part of the statute by the Superintendent, the term “appendages” is limited to a few simple articles, which are indispensable to the comfort and health of the pupils, such as a broom, a water-pail, a stove, a wood-house, &c.The inhabitants have no power to tax themselves, excepting for these enumerated objects, and whenever it is desired to raise money for any other purpose, it must be done by voluntary contribution.
The standard of qualification for voters is so low, that scarcely any individual is excluded from the exercise of the right of suffrage in respect to matters concerning the school-district in which he resides. If he has been assessed in the town to work on the highway during the year or the preceding year, he may vote at school district meetings for any authorized object. He has a voice in the choice of district officers, and though wholly destitute of property himself, he may contribute to lay a tax on the
property of the district. In some cases, therefore, property may be taxed for common school purposes against the wishes of its possessors; but as the objects of taxation are extremely limited, no danger is likely to arise from the abuse of this power. In the case of school-houses, always the greatest object of expenditure, there is a further safeguard: no tax exceeding four hundred dollars can be voted for that object, unless the cominissioners of common schools of the town certify that a larger sum is necessary. The tax for purchasing libraries is limited to twenty dollars the first year, and to ten dollars per annum for subsequent additions to it; and all other taxes must, from the nature of the objects, be small in amount.
The effect of these provisions with respect to taxation in school districts in most cases, is, that the inhabitants tax themselves liberally for all the authorized objects referred to.
There is one particular in which the same praise is not so generally due. It is the case of all others, in which a suitable liberality is most necessary to accomplish the objects of the system, and in which the greatest want of it has heretofore been shown. The school-houses are usually comfortable and the physical wants of the scholars are sufficiently provided for. But with respect to their moral and intellectual improvement, there is in general a great deficiency. The only material defect of the system is the want of competent teachers. The cause of the defect is an unwillingness on the part of the inhabitants to pay such wages as to secure the services of individuals of suitable qualifications. That much of the prevailing apathy on this subject is owing to the want of attention to its importance, will hardly be denied. Our common school system has been but a few years in operation, and it is only recently that it can be considered as having gained a solid foundation. In building up and bringing to perfection its external organization, the internal condition of the schools has been in some degrec neglected.
Public attention has, within the last eight years, been more strongly attracted to this part of the system, and in many districts correct views begin to prevail with regard to the impolicy of expending money unprofitably upon incompetent teachers. To the exertions of individuals to correct crroneous impressions on this subject, the countenance and co-operation of the Legislature have been superadded. By an act passed in the year 1834, the Regents of the University were authorized to appropriate a portion of the income of the Literature Fund to the education of teachers. This authority was promptly exercised, as will be hereafter seen, and the plan adopted by the Regents has been carried into execution. So long as the wages of teachers were extremely low, men of talents would not devote themselves to the business of teaching, nor could they afford to fit themselves for it by a regular course of preparation. The rate of compensation for teachers is gradually advancing: in some parts of the State, good wages are paid, and many individuals are preparing themselves for teaching as a permanent vocation. As they find employment, the demand for them will increase: for as the benefits of instruction by a well trained teacher become apparent, the influence of the example will extend to neighboring districts; and these causes acting reciprocally upon each other, cannot fail to produce important effects.