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SCHOOL-FUNDS, The schools of New Jersey are supported by funds derived from the following sources:
(1) The two-mill State-school-tax; (2) the interest derived from the school-fund, amounting to $35,000 annually; (3) an additional appropriation of $65,000, derived from the revenue of the State; (4) the interest of the surplus revenue; (5) townshipschool-taxes; and (6) district- and city-school-taxes.
The school-fund was first created by an act of the legislature, February 9, 1816. By this act the State-treasurer was directed to invest $15,000 in the public 6-per-cent. stocks of the United States, to be a perpetual fund for the benefit of the public schools of the State. Tbis fund has been increased from time to time by subsequent legislation. At present it amounts to $792,190.77. The amount of the income from this fund that can be appropriated to schools is determined by act of the legislature. As the fund, and the interest arising therefrom, increases, the legislature, from time to time, increases the amount of the annual appropriation. The sum now annually appropriated is $35,000. All the interest received in excess of this appropriation is added to the principal.
The amount of the surplus revenue apportioned to New Jersey by act of Congress in 1836 was $764,670.44. This money was apportioned to the several counties of the State in the ratio of the State-taxes paid by them at that time; but, as it is subject to recall at any time by the National Government, it is only loaned to the counties. Notwithstanding the guarded provisions of the act relating to this fund, tbe principal appears to bave been used in eight counties to pay county-expenses. In these counties the schools no longer receive any benefit from the fund.
It will be observed that the State-appropriation amounts to about three-fourths of all the money needed to maintain the schools. This money is derived from the tax of two mills on a dollar, levied by the State. This tax is uniform in all the counties and is apportioned for the use of the schools on the basis of the school-census. A State-appropriation derived from a uniform State-tax is undoubtedly the most equitable and just means for supporting the public schools. This method of raising school-money does not meet with a tithe of the opposition that the old plan of resorting to townshiptaxation always encountered.
If in any township the funds received from the apportionments are not sufficient to maintain free schools nine months during the year, the school-law requires that the supplemental amount needed shall be raised by township-tax. In accordance with this provision, 40 townships out of the 217 in the State raised additional funds by township-tax, and, in 507 districts out of a total of 1,367, district-school-taxes were assessed. In 175 districts, taxes were assessed to pay teachers' salaries and in 477 they were imposed to build and repair school-houses.
The only custodians of school-moneys are the State-treasurer, the county- and township-collectors and the city-treasurers. The township-collectors are responsible for the safe-keeping of all the school-funds of the State and also for tbeir proper disbursement.
FREE SCHOOLS. “The free-school-law of New Jersey went into operation September 1, 1871. During the past two years, therefore, all the children of the State have had an opportunity of attending school free of charge. The results under the workings of this law are most gratifying. There has been a liberal increase in the salaries paid to teachers, and the time the schools have been kept open has been considerably increased. There is a stability given to the school-system by this act which it never before had. When the schools depended upon the township-tax for their support, the question whether they should be continued or closed depended every year upon the vote given at the townmeeting. Consequently there was an annual recurrence of anxiety felt by the friends of the schools, lest sufficient funds should not be voted for their support. Now the tax is assessed and collected by State-authority, and every district has an assurance that it will receive an apportionment sufficient to maintain a free school a reasonable length of time during the year.
“The law gives general satisfaction. It is popular in all parts of the State. The unanimity with which the bill passed the legislature was most gratifying to its friends, but more gratifying has been the hearty indorsement given it by the people.”
SCHOOL-LAW. Of the present law, the superintendent says: “Our school-law, in all its main features, is well adapted to our wants. Our system of school-taxation is equitable and just and furnishes the means necessary to maintain the schools on a liberal basis. Our plan of supervision secures an accurate apportionment of the school-funds, a full knowledge of its mode of expenditure, a careful inspection of the schools, a rigid examination of the teachers, a ready adjustment of all school-difficulties, and complete and
reliable statistical and written reports of the full workings of the schools, at the close of the year. No change affecting any of the main features of the system should, in my opinion, be made.”
DISTRICT-SCHOOL-CENSUS. Six new districts have been formed and seventeen old ones abolished during the year 1873, making the whole number 1,367, eleven less than last year. The districts abolished were considered too small to maintain schools. They were, therefore, divided and tbe parts were joined to other surrounding districts. A number of others in which the school-census ranges below 70 will be abolished during the coming year. It requires a census of 70 or 75 children to give a fair average attendance, and the desire is to have as few districts as possible with less than this number.
LENGTH OF ANNUAL SCHOOL-TERM. The school-law requires that every district shall maintain a school for at least nine months in the year. Failure to comply with this condition involves a forfeiture of all school-money coming from the State. The length of time prescribed is greater than that in any other State. Notwithstanding this fact, very few of the districts have failed to comply with the requirement. In this particular the exhibit made for the year 1872–73 is more favorable than ever before presented. The average length of time the schools have been kept in session is nine months and thirteen days. This is more than a month longer than the average school-term in any of the New England, Middle, or Western States. From nearly all the districts tbat failed to maintain schools the required length of time, good and sufficient reasons for the failure have been received, and the money apportioned to them has not been withbeld. In many of them school houses have been undergoing repairs or new ones have been in the course of erection.
ATTENDANCE. The exhibit of the percentage of attendance does not materially differ from that given in last year's report. The evils of irregular attendance then referred to still exist. The superintendent says: “We are making reasonable and satisfactory progress in all matters pertaining to the schools, excepting this one. In the matter of attendance we seem to be making no advancement whatever.” This seems now the greatest obstacle to the success of the school-system. The total attendance is satisfactory. Seventy-five per cent. of the children of school-age are reported as having attended either à public or private school some portion of the year, leaving 25 per cent. who bave attended no school. This 25 per cent. includes many children between the ages of 5 and 7, who are kept at home because they are considered too young to attend school, and many between 15 and 18, whose school-days have ended, but who have probably received a fair public-school-education. This being considered, the total attendance is as great as can reasonably be expected. The evil complained of is not absenteeism, but irregularity of attendance. The attendance for the whole schoolterm has been only 9 per cent. of the number enrolled, and 40 per cent., or more than one-third of the enrollment, were in attendance less than four months. In considering the magnitude of this evil it must be remembered that it does not all fall upon those who absent themselves; a portion of it is sustained by those who are regular in their attendance, by classes becoming disorganized and consequently losing ground. Those members of a class who attend regularly have to be kept back wbile irregular attendants make up for lost time. It is urged upon parents, educators, and school-officers to put forth every effort to make the attendance on the public schools more regular and constant. In Jersey City there has been a gratifying improveinent in this particular, 87 per cent. of the average number belonging having been in regular attendance, against 83.7 per cent. during the preceding year. This result, it is believed, has been attained by a plan which has been pursued during the past tbree years of rewarding that class which has had the most perfect attendance throughout the week, by dismissal on Friday afternoon, with special praise and honor, one hour before the regular time. In some cases, also, those classes that have achieved 95 per cent. or more are dismissed soon after the triumphant class.
CORPORAL PUNISHMENT. A law forbidding corporal punishment in schools was enacted in 1867. At first, a large portion of the teachers of the State regretted the passage of it; but it is the opinion of the State-superintendent that a majority of them would now oppose a proposition to repeal the law; and he thinks that three-fourths entirely dispense with the use of the rod. The effect of the law is held to have been good. It has led teachers to make the experiment of governing without corporal punishment, and many have been successful. He states that, "as a rule, those schools in which the rod is not used are better governed than those in which the use of it is continued."
SALARY OF STATE-SUPERINTENDENT. The report of the State-board of education to the legislature contains the following: “The provisions of the law making the public schools entirely free have added to the labors of the State-superintendent of public instruction; and, as his services, apart from these additional labors, have been but moderately remunerated, the board of education respectfully asks the legislature to consider the propriety of increasing his salary."
COUNTY-SUPERINTENDENTS. The State-superintendent says of this office: “The amount of work required is sufficient to employ one man's entire time and attention in each county in the State. But the salaries they receive are not such as to enable them all to do this, the average salary at present being only $794.17. The remuneration should be such as would induce educated, experienced, and thoroughly competent persons to accept these positions and to devote their whole time and energies to the work. An increase of 50 per cent. on the present salaries would no more than fairly compensate these officers for their labors." Most of the county-superintendents, in their reports, refer to the matter of salary, conceding the necessity of the superintendent's whole time being given to the schools and regretting their inability to do this, the small salary making it necessary for them to devote a portion of their time to some other employment. The results are unfortunate. One superintendent writes: “In endeavoring to supplement my salary by the occasional performance of acts appertaining to a separate profession, I have risked a loss of influence in the schools, and my conviction is a settled one that the entire time and energy of the superintendent should be devoted to the schoolwork. How he is to be justly requited for such unremitting labor does not yet appear." Similar sentiments are expressed by a majority of the county-superintendents. The good results to the schools of a supervision which would be constant and thorough, because sufficiently remunerated, cannot be overestimated.
Notwithstanding these difficulties and hinderances, the visitation of schools seems to have been faithfully performed. The number of such visitations during the year averages two and one-half for each school in the State, and a majority of the countysuperintendents bave visited their schools oftener than the law requires.
INCREASE OF FEMALE TEACHERS. During the past year there have been 907 male and 2,234 female teachers employed in the public schools, being a decrease of 48 males and an increase of 104 females. For several years there has been this uniform decreuse in the number of male teachers employed and a corresponding increase in the number of females. With the exception of California, no State pays her female teachers so liberally as New Jersey, and only in the States of California, Massachusetts, and Connecticut do the male teachers receive as much as in this State.
EXAMINATIONS AND CERTIFICATES OF TEACHERS. Examinations of teachers are held quarterly by the county-boards of examiners. The questions used at these examinations are uniform throughout the State and are furnished by the State-department. The certificates issued are of three grades. The first is granted to candidates not less than 18 years old with not less than two years experience in teaching, and is good for tbree years in all parts of the State, the second to persons not less than 17 years old with an experience in teaching of not less than one year. No experience in teaching is required for a third-grade-certificate, but candidates must be not less than 16 years old. The second-grade-certificate is good for two years and the third-grade for one year only in the county in which they are issued. The increase in the pumber of first-grade-certificates granted during the year is very gratifying. The number of rejections goes to show that the examinations are conducted with considerable thoronginess. It is intended to make the examinations more and more rigid every year, and thus continually to raise the standard of teachers' qualifications.
Special attention is called to the great importance of having thoroughly qualified teachers for the primary schools. Trustees too often have the idea that persons of limited attainments and no experience are good enongh for such schools; and teachers thernselves sometimes complain because they are required to pass an examination in grammar and geography before they can secure a license to teach a school where these studies are not taught. The reasoning upon which this idea is based is false and the legitimate results most pernicions. At no period in a child's educational conrse does so much depend upon the teacher as during the first five years of his school-life. For this reason the requirements of primary-school-teachers should be considerably above the branches they are required to teach. The work must not be intrusted to ignorant and inexperienced teachers. The strongest terms are nsed in urging the importance of this subject upon school-trustees and school-officers generally.
SCHOOLS SHOULD BE VISITED BY PARENTS AND SCHOOL-OFFICERS. The neglect of the schools by trustees and the almost total indifference manifested by parents are made the occasion of remark by many of the county-superintendents. The results are alike evil to teachers and scholars ; the former, feeling that they are unappreciated and that they receive neither thanks nor sympathy, lose heart and courage for their work; and the children are not roused to energy and ambition, as they surely would be if a constant interest were manifested in their progress and their schools were frequently visited by persons whose good opinion they would value. The superintendent of a county where the general intelligence is above the average says: “ Very few of our trustees make a point of visiting the schools and the visits of patrons at large are fewer still. Often I have to hear from teachers, 'You are the only person that ever visits me or manifests the least interest in what I am doing.'” Many superintendents express a wonder that under such discouraging circumstances teachers continue earnest and faithful. It is hoped that this evil may be remedied and that all who are interested in paying for the common schools will manifest an interest in their progress.
UNIFORMITY OF TEXT-BOOKS. One great obstacle to satisfactory progress that confronts the teacher of an ungraded school is the multiplicity of classes. In nine-tenths of the districts of the State the schools are ungraded or the grades mixed. The number of classes is necessarily large and the time the teacher can devote to each is correspondingly short. In many of these schools the number of classes is greatly increased by the diversity of text-books used, and a great decrease would be effected if uniformity could be secured. The question "How can uniformity be secured p” becomes then an important one. In most of the counties the superintendents have endeavored to secure either township- or countyuniformity by calling the trustees of the townships or counties together and agreeing upon the books that shall be used. The result has not been successful. An approach to uniformity bas been made, but in no county has it been fully secured. The difficulty is that, after uniformity is decided upon, there is no authority to compel parents to buy the books selected ; and, even if it were given, it is doubtful if it could be exercised to the necessary extent. The opinion is expressed that uniformity can never be secured | until the law provides that the same parties that decide what books are to be used
shall also be the purchasers. To secure county-uniformity, there must be a countyboard to select and to purchase books for the whole county. For township- or districtuniformity the same must be true. Provided district-uniformity can be secured, connty- and township-uniformity are not considered of so much importance. It is suggested that if every district were to raise by tax an amount sufficient to parchase all the books needed to commence with, the children could be required to pay a small annual sum for their use, and with this fund the supply could be constantly kept up. There is no reason why the purchase of books should not be met by a common tax, as well as that incurred for erecting school-houses, hiring teachers, or purchasing fuel. The custom is common in the cities, and there is no reason wby it cannot be introduced in the rural districts with equal facility and advantage.
SCHOOL-HOUSES. During the past year. 3 new school-houses have been built and 96 have been remodeled, refurnished, or enlarged. The total amount expended for the improvement of school-property was $586,470.58. The total amount ordered to be raised and expended for this purpose next year is $660,715.32.
The remarkable number of school-houses built and repaired during the past five years, the large sums of money expended for these purposes, and the consequent increase in the value of school-property are shown in the following tabular statement.
The total number of school-buildings in the State at the present time is 1,480. It thus appears that one-fourth of the entire number have been built within the past five years and that more than one-half of them have either been built anew or remodeled and improved within this short space of time. There is a large decrease in the number of poor and medium school-houses and a corresponding increase in the number of good ones. A few years ago the greatest want in the State respecting educational matters was a just appreciation of the importance of furnisbing suitable school-accoinmodations. The school-houses, as a rule, were poor, and the people seemed to be satis
fied with them. That state of apathy has passed. In every county new buildings are • being erected and old oves repaired, and the utmost willingness is shown by the people to vote the necessary means for these improvements. .
The legislature of 1872 changed the law where it required a two-thirds vote to order a district-tax for making improvements in school-buildings, so that now only a majorityvote is necessary. This change has already been productive of great good. In very many of the districts where new bouses have been erected during the past two years the old ones would still be standing had this change not been made.
The most cheering feature of this record is the superior character of the houses that have been built. During no preceding period have there been so many inquiries respecting competent architects, suitable designs, methods of heating and ventilation, furniture, apparatus, &c., as during the past two years.
In each of the annual reports for the past three years the attention of school-officers and others has been directed to the fact that school-houses exist in the State with no onthouses attached. Three years ago the number in this condition was 152, and in addition to this there were 423 in which the outhouses were not kept in proper order. It is some satisfaction to know that the number of schools with no outhouses has decreased to 87 and the number with indifferent ones to 269; but the wonder is that a single case of the kind should exist. The State-superintendent is determined to correct this evil, if possible, by the enforcement of the penalty provided in the law for such cases, and will, therefore, direct the county-superintendents to withhold the Statemoney from all districts not provided with suitable outhouses, until such as are needed are built.
DISTRICT-SCHOOL-LIBRARIES. The law providing for the purchase of school-libraries or school-apparatus has been in operation over two years. Under its provisions every district that raises $20 by, subscription is entitled to an equal amount from the State, and for every year thereafter, by raising $10, a like sum of $10 is paid by the State. This money can be ex- : pended either in the purchase of library-books or school-apparatus. Thus far 236 districts in all have established libraries and during the past year 49 districts made additions to the libraries established last year.
THE TOWNSHIP-SCHOOL-SYSTEM. The school-law, which authorized county-superintendency, has been in operation six years. By the provisions of this law the number of school-officers in the State was materially lessened and the whole system was strengthened and made more efficient. A still further reduction in the number of school-officers can be made by adopting the township system. This change, it is believed, would strengthen still more the general school-system and add greatly to its efficiency.
Tbe number of school-districts then would be reduced from 1,367, the present number, to 254, the number of townships and cities in the State. The number of schoolofficers would be reduced from 4,200 to about 1,600. There are now, on an average, seven boards, or twenty-one school-officers, for each township. With one-fourth the namber to look after the interests of the schools there will be more system, a greater degree of harmony, a deeper interest, and more effective work in the school-organization thap is now possible.
DEFECTS OF DISTRICT-SYSTEM. The principal defects of the present system are: too frequent elections; the difficulty of selecting any basis upon which the school-moneys can be apportioned, so that each district shall receive the precise amount of money it needs; the needless expense incurred, in many cases, in maintaining a full school for the benefit of a few children; the endless disputes and troubles about district-boundaries, and the impossibility of grading or classifying the schools of small districts.
One of the greatest hinderances to the proper administration of the school-system lies in the cambersomeness and inefficiency of the school-machinery in the counties. The county-superintendent has too many officers through whom he must act and upon wboni he inust rely for information. There need be no doubt that an improvement in the efficiency of supervision and in the ease with which school-statistics can be gathered will follow the adoption of the township-system.
This change in the school-law is strongly urged because it is believed that it will make the entire school-organization far more efficient than at present.