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HARRISBURG, SUNE 20,1837.}
Sir—In compliance with a resolution adopted by the Convention on the subject, the undersigned have the honor to submit a report on the expenses of general education prepared by the Secretary of the Commonwealth : and two statements, one of the common school fund, and the other of the valuation and taxation of real and personal estate, for 1835, by the Auditor General.
We have the honor to be,
THO. H. BURROWES,
NATH. P. HOBART.
REPORT ON THE PUBLIC COST OF GENERAL EDUCATION IN PENNSYLVANIA. “Resolved, That the Secretary of the Commonwealth, Auditor General, and the Treasurer of the State, be requested to furnish this Convention with statements showing the public cost, by taxation or otherwise, of schools, academies, colleges and education in this State, together with an estimate of a sum sufficient, and a plan of the best method of raising it, for educating all the children of the State”.
The Secretary of the Commonwealth, as Superintendent of Common Schools, has had the foregoing resolution for some time under consideration, and is now compelled, in reporting, to state, that after obtaining all the information within his reach, his estimates, so far as sums and numbers are concerned, are, in many instances, based on loose data. For the conclusions and opinions submited, he can speak with greater certainty. They are given, it is true, on his own individual responsibility, yet they are the offspring of much thought and a very close, though brief connexion, with the system of education. They are also presented somewhat at length, and may seem to embrace subjects not strictly connected with that of public instruction. But when the general terms of the resolution are refered to, and the paramount importance and pervading influence of general education are remembered, the latitude of remark indulged in will perhaps not appear wholly uncalled for. 1. PUBLIC COST OF EDUCATION.
IN SCHOOLS. The public cost of education in primary schools, as near as can be estimated, during the present school year, will be: From annual State appropriation, to the accepting 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
eost of instructing each pupil in the common school, after the system shall be fully established and understood, will not exceed one dollar a quarter. Experience will show that the schools cannot be kept open, on an average, more than three fourths of each year, consistently with the convenience of the agricultural and laboring classes, who furnish five sixths of the pupils. The annual cost, therefore, of primary school education, for some years, will be about six hundred and sixty thousand dollars in the whole State, including the city and county of Philadelphia. This calculation 'is based on the supposition that the common school system will be accepted in all the districts of the Commonwealth, though only four out of five have yet received it.
After the lapse of four or five years, the cost of common school instruction, it is believed, will materially diminish. School houses and other preliminary arrangements will then be completed, and will cease to be a heavy item in the annual expenditure. This desirable result will be much hastened by the school house fund, appropriated at the last session of the Lelature. Cheaper, as well as better modes of instruction will be discovered and systematically pursued; and the influx of grown-up pupils who now crowd the school houses, with little benefit to themselves or to society, and much expense to the system, will wholly cease, as the system accomplishes its object. Hence, it may be safely calculated that proper attention and exertion during the next four years, will reduce the expenses of the common school system to five hundred thousand dollars annually, being a decrease equal to one fourth of the whole amount. In this estimate, the system is supposed to be accepted by all the districts.
IN ACADEMIES AND COLLEGES. Though it is not presumed to be the intention of the Government to divert a large portion of the means now applicable to the purposes of education, from the common school system, for the purpose of applying it to the support of academies and colleges, yet justice and a due regard for the promotion of literature and science demand that their strong claims should not be wholly overlooked. The true way to promote any object is to aid it at the begining, and to give it such an impulse there, as will carry it on to a successful termination. In accordance with this principle, one dollar judiciously applied to primary school learning, is worth more in its effects to society, than three given to colleges or academies. Still the regular and prudent appropriation of small sums in aid of the latter classes of institutions, is calculated to produce much good, which cannot be effected by other means.
The best mode of affording useful, permanent and invigorating assistance to our academical and collegiate system, it is believed, would be the establishment of a liberal literary fund, for their aid. If the proceeds of some considerable sum of money specially set apart for the purpose, or of some particular branch of public revenue-say the tax on writs, or the auction duties—were annually distributed among them, by a competent and impartial agency, and in proportion to their real merits, the effect would be instantaneously beneficial. Academies which now dwindle, or are entirely disused, would revive under snch an arrangement: for there is no stronger spur to action, than the danger and disgrace of forfeiting a public benefit, depending on the performance of conditions in themselves praiseworthy
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.
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 2d April, 1831, and formed of the proceeds of the sale
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 act creating it, would have been the day when the proceeds of the fund would become actually applicable
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 act, making a present distributive annual sum of two hundred thousand dollars.
It may also be proper here to remark, that the permanent school fund will be increased by the operation of the act of 27th February, 18:27, 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 payable the present year by ihe 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 10 equal any particular sum of State appropriation. Whenever an amount of tax less ihan the amount of State appropriation will, with that appropriation, be more than sufficient to 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 be required, except for the purpose of causing a sufficient number of schools to be 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 objert of the system is achieved, the burihen of taxation should be liglioneras 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.