網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

setts and Plymouth colonies, schools were supported by law, and great care was taken that the benefits of education should be shared by all.”

As early as the year 1647, every town of one hundred families, in addition to its Common School, was obliged to support a Grammar School, and every town of fifty families neglecting for one year to provide for the constant supply of a schoolmaster, incurred a penalty of ten pounds. It has been well said that Massachusetts enjoys the distinguished honor of having led in the work of universal education. The system of universal education established in the Massachusetts and Plymouth colonies has continued down to the present time. The method of raising money for the support of Public Schools has varied from time to time, but the plan generally adopted prior to the establishment of the school fund, was to raise the necessary money by taxation of the polls and estates of the people of the towns and school districts, without any substantial aid from the government. Since the establishment of the school fund, more or less aid has been furnished by the State to the Common Schools. During a number of years the wisdom of this policy was doubted. There are those who doubt it now. The argument in favor of the former system is, that the results of bringing the burden of educating the children directly upon the community where the children reside, are more interest in the subject of education, and consequently more progress on the part of the children. The history of the Massachusetts school fund shows a change of policy in the State, and establishes the principle, that funds belonging to the State, and not the property of any town or school district, are applied to encourage the towns to make larger appropriations for the support of Common Schools, with the idea that the appropriations are made under circumstances which tend to relieve somewhat the burdens of the less prosperous communities, increase the compensation of the teachers, and enlarge the popular interest in an object so important to the well-being of the community.

The Massachusetts school fund was established by chapter 169 of the laws of 1834, which provided that it should consist of the amount in the treasury derived from the sale of lands in the State of Maine, the amount derived from the claim of the State on the government of the United States for military services, and not otherwise appropriated, together with fifty per centum of all moneys to be received from the sale of lands in Maine after the first day of January, 1835. The fund was never to exceed one million of dollars. It was further provided by law, that the income only of said fund should be appropriated to the aid and encouragement of Common Schools, and that no city, town or district should receive any greater sum than is raised by said city, town or district respectively for the support of Common Schools.

At the close of the year 1850, the fund amounted to $986,305.33. In the year 1851, in contemplation of a large sale of lands, by the terms of chapter 112, the school fund was allowed to accumulate until it shall amount to a sum not exceeding one million and five hundred thousand dollars. The balance of the lands in Maine was sold in the year 1853, and the fund at the close of that year was $1,244,284.05. In the year 1854, it amounted to $1,501,743.62. By the Act of 1859, chapter 154, it was provided that there should be added to the school fund one-half of the proceeds of sales of lands on the Back Bay, so called, in Boston. At the close of the year 1863, the fund was $1,870,970.88. At the close of the next year, $2,196,827.18. At the close of 1874, $2,117,732.82.

Commencing with the year 1855, under the provisions of chapter 300 of the Acts of 1854, one-half of the annual income of said fund has been apportioned and distributed for the use and support of Common Schools according to such provisions as have from time to time been adopted by the legislature. The other moiety of the income of the fund has been applied to payment for other educational purposes, the principal items of which are the salary of the Secretary of the Board of Education, salaries of agents, support of Normal Schools, Normal ArtSchool, Teachers' Institutes, printing reports, building and keeping in repair Normal School houses and boarding houses, and the incidental expenses of the Board of Education, the members of which act without compensation.

By the provisions of law, any surplus, after the payment of appropriations for what are termed other educational expenses, out of the moiety of the income is to be added annually to the principal of the fund. Prior to the Act of 1870, chapter 45, if the moiety was insufficient for the purpose, the excess of the appropriations in any year was to be paid from any money in the treasury not otherwise appropriated. By said Act of 1870, "All money appropriated for other educational expenses, unless otherwise provided for by the Act appropriating the same, shall be paid out of one-half of said income.” In the year 1871, it is stated that the principal is increasing by the addition of the yearly surplus from the moiety of the income. This state of things no longer exists. One-half of the income of the school fund for the year ending December 31, 1874, was $89,287.28. Other educational expenses in 1874, $100,643.47.

This brings us directly to the fact, that what are termed other educational expenses in contradistinction to what is paid out for the Common Schools, exceeds the moiety of the income of the school fund, and will annually exceed it hereafter, unless measures shall be taken to increase the income, or the State shall do what cannot for one moment be thought of,-lessen the means for the education and enlightenment of her children.

The history of the obligations referred to in the Resolve of 1875, a copy of which has been given, shows that the obligations were assumed in pursuance of a theory that the fund must be kept good, and all educational expenses provided for by the income of the fund, and without invading or lessening the fund.

The first loan, so called, to the Board of Education, was by chapter 17 of the Resolves of the year 1869, entitled a "Resolve relating to the establishment of boarding-houses for the State Normal Schools at Bridgewater and Framingham, $30,000.”

The second loan was by chapter 75 of the Resolves of 1869, entitled "Resolve making additional provision for the establishment of boarding-houses for the State Normal Schools at Bridgewater and Framingham, $15,000).”

The third was by chapter 1 of the Resolves of 1870, entitled " Resolve for providing boarding-houses for the State Normal Schools at Bridgewater and Framingham, $15,000.”

The money was drawn from the school fund and applied to the purposes for which it was intended. The boarding-houses operated to the satisfaction of all; but it soon appeared that the system of demanding interest in the manner proposed would either lead to a virtual diminution of the income of the fund for the purposes to which it was originally intended to apply, or would place the scholars in schools where tnition is intended

to be free, in a condition somewhat at a disadvantage, in comparison with those in the other Normal Schools of the State.

By chapter 32 of the Resolves of 1870, the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars was ordered to be advanced from the treasury, in anticipation of the moiety of the school fund, to be expended, under the direction of the Board of Education, in the enlargement and construction of the Normal School house at Salem, and in procuring suitable furniture for the same.

By chapter 29 of the Resolves of 1873, the liability of the Board of Education to pay interest upon the $53,000 was cancelled, and by chapter 76 of the Resolves of 1875, the whole obligation is cancelled. The trouble in the whole matter has been, that the increase in our population, and the increase in the demand for greater facilities for popular education, have made it impossible to meet what are termed other educational expenses out of a moiety of the income of the school fund. Annually the Board of Education is obliged to come to the legislature for appropriations from the treasury to meet the educational expenses of the State in carrying out a policy which coinmends itself to the hearts of our people, and which is identified with the best interests of the Commonwealth.

The Resolve of 1875 asks the opinion of the Board of Education as to whether it is advisable to increase the school fund. One thing is clear: it is desirable that, as far as possible, the educational interests of the State should be carried out without the annual urgent appeal for the amounts necessary for the purpose. It is a laborious and embarrassing duty for those who are working without compensation and without any conceivable motive, except a desire to promote the educational interests of the community. There seems to be but three ways to provide the money. One is by making annual appropriations to be paid from the state treasury; one by increasing the school fund to the amount which shall be required to enable one moiety of the income thereof to be sufficient to meet other educational expenses of the State ; and one by assessing a half-mill or quarter-mill tax, in accordance with the recommendation of the Board of Education contained in the report made in January, 1873.

In view of the fact that the moiety of the income of the school fund is now insufficient to meet the educational expenses referred to, the Board, acting upon the presumption that the State of Massachusetts has no disposition to take any backward step in the matter of the education of her children, and seeing no creditable way to dispense with the means and agencies which she now employs in this department of the government, respectfully recommends either that the school fund be increased, or that a half-mill or quarter-mill tax be assessed upon the real and personal property in the State liable to taxation, the proceeds of the same to be applied to the advancement of popular education. The Board again expresses a decided preference in favor of a half or quarter of a mill tax for the purposes of education.

If anything needs to be added to the suggestions contained in the Thirty-Seventh Annual Report of the Board, already referred to, it may not be improper to call the attention of the legislature to the fact, that the cities where "wealth doth most congregate," owe to the country towns something in return for the draft which they are constantly making upon them, not only in the persons of the industrious, intellectual, ambitious and enterprising young men who constitute, sooner or later, so large a proportion of their influential and respectable population, but in the acquisition of new blood, fresh, vigorous and pure, to supplement and strengthen the community, which would otherwise tend to deterioration and decay. One would naturally suppose that the classes of population last referred to would feel that they owe so much to the country influences which surrounded their childhood, and which helped so much towards making them what they are, would cheerfully overlook any slight fractional inequality in the matter of taxation, and gladly contribute something to aid the humble institutions of their early homes, and to cherish and sustain the general policy of universal popular education to which the State has pledged herself so long and faithfully.

Since the establishment of the school fund, it has become the settled policy of the State to furnish pecuniary aid to the Common Schools, and to sustain certain measures which seem to tend to their elevation and improvement. The Board of Education has this department specially in charge, and it is its duty from time to time to make suggestions and recommendations which may be deemed necessary or important. The various reports of the Board are filled with suggestions which the members have taken the liberty to present, some of which have been

« 上一頁繼續 »