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Sufficient money to produce a good school system can be made available in most rural communities only thru large state subsidies and a larger administrative unit than either the school district, or the town and township; since the county is a common political unit in forty-one states, comparable only in its significance for education to the state itself, the county is the logical administrative unit. It is now the unit for almost all other forms of public business.
It is a fundamental principle of American education that the wealth of the state must be taxt to educate the children of the state. A unit of the state that does not have sufficient wealth to educate its children must be helpt by the wealthier communities. The purpose of a state school fund is to equalize the burdens of taxation for schools, and to secure, in a measure, equality of educational opportunity for all the children of the state. This fundamental principle of the distribution of state school funds, it seems to me, applies with equal force to the distribution of money available for schools in a county.
A county that is uniformly rich, i.e., that has approximately the same amount of taxable wealth back of each child to be educated, could get along as well without the county unit if we do not take into consideration the necessity for an administrative and supervisory organization. But every state in the Union has its taxable wealth concentrated more or less in spots, and there are few counties not so situated. A county uniformly poor cannot have a good school system with the county unit unless there is a large amount of money available from the state school fund; but there are many school districts and even townships in most counties that do not have sufficient taxable wealth back of each child to be educated to have good schools, for, in the final analysis, a good school costs money, and to maintain a good school money must be available to secure a good teacher, competent supervision, and capable administration.
The weakness of the American system of education, in my judgment, lies in giving too little opportunity for initiative at the top, with too much opportunity for initiative at the bottom almost entirely unexercised, as in many of our weak district- and township-unit school systems. Does any city-school superintendent argue for a minute that a city ward system of education, subdividing the city into from ten to one hundred administrative units with only a nominal administrative head for the entire system, would make for educational progress ? Such a scheme of education for a city is almost unthinkable—for a county it is the predominant plan.
Any city in this country of 10,000 inhabitants and over is rich enough to pay the cost of a good school system because cities represent the concentrated taxable wealth of the nation. After all these centers of wealth have set up for themselves educationally, there are comparatively few country districts left in the same fortunate condition; one chief reason is that the country district must compete for ability in the teaching force with its wealthier city neighbor. The county unit makes it possible to eliminate to some degree this competition.
Baltimore County, for example, can, as a whole, afford to pay as high salaries as Baltimore city. Furthermore our salary schedule is arranged so that a teacher in a one-teacher rural school receives during the first six years of service a salary from $120 to $200 higher than a grade teacher in a town or suburban school. If she is transferred to a grade position her salary is automatically reduced by that amount. Needless to say, transfers to suburban schools are less frequently askt for than formerly. Again, the assistant superintendent in charge of rural schools has fewer teachers to supervise and receives the same salary as other assistant superintendents, while all his traveling expenses, including the cost and upkeep of an automobile, are paid by the county, the state sharing one-half of the cost of salary up to $2,000. This plan is mandatory for one rural-school supervisor in every county in Maryland having one hundred teachers or more, and is optional in counties having less than one hundred teachers. Is not this merely applying the fundamental principle of attempting to furnish equality of educational opportunity to all the children of the county, just as a city does for all of its children ?
Opportunity for professional leadership plus a commensurate salary largely determine the quality of leadership a school system can hope to obtain. When the schools of a community must depend for the initiation of progressive school policies upon the average rural taxpayer and not upon a well-trained schoolman, there will be mighty little progress. Leadership of the highest order is needed to arouse and inform public opinion in rural communities concerning the needs of the schools and how these needs may be met; only in this way can progress be made.
What is the status of the county superintendency in the United States with respect to professional leadership and a commensurate salary as compared with the city superintendency? There are about three thousand county superintendents in the United States, few of whom have charge of less than fifty teachers, and more than five hundred of whom have some sort of supervisory control of two hundred and fifty teachers or more. There are just about one hundred cities in the United States that have a population of 50,000, or over: that is to say, there are only one hundred city superintendents who have charge of two hundred and fifty teachers or more. If it were possible to centralize authority and educational responsibility in the office of the county board of education and the county superintendent thru wisely administered state school laws, thus placing the county superintendency on a professional plane similar to that of the city superintendency in cities of equal population, what a wonderful field for professional progress there would be in the position of county superintendent in this country! The average county superintendent's salary is 61 per cent of the average city superintendent's salary; and all cities of a population of 2,500, and over are included in these statistics.
Tenure of office is another important element in professional opportunity. There are no better reasons for electing a county superintendent of schools by direct vote of the people than there are for electing a city superintendent of schools in the same way; and yet, in 1916, twenty-nine state laws required this procedure. In eighteen of the twenty-nine states he is elected for two years, and in two of the eighteen he is made ineligible for more than four years. But these same states that throw such a careful safeguard around the office of county superintendent require very meager qualifications in the candidate, give him very little authority to do anything educationally after he is elected, and pay him very little for doing it. Instead of entering the work as a professional career, he is regarded merely as a political officer and clerk, and the old political principle of rotation in office is applied to the position. It is only natural, therefore, that the country-bred school men with professional aspirations and ability should move to the cities.
To show the flexibility of a county-unit system of education, may I sketch briefly the administrative and supervisory organization in a county having a population of 140,000, rural, suburban, and urban, with 25,000 pupils enrolled and an annual school budget of over $750,000.
There are in this county, in round numbers, eighty one-teacher schools, fifty-five two-teacher schools, and forty-five schools having from three to fifty-nine teachers—in all there are six hundred teachers. The county board of education of six members has entire control of the school affairs of the county. For all purposes of school administration the county is a municipality.
The superintendent of schools is the executive officer of the board of education. As secretary of the board he attends all meetings and may take part in the discussion of school policies and all other administrative problems, but has no vote. As treasurer of the board he is the custodian of all school funds, and all disbursements for school purposes are made over his signature. These duties and many others of a strictly professional character are definitely fixt by the state school law. He nominates, assigns, and transfers teachers, recommends textbooks and materials of instruction, and takes the initiative in preparing the school budget. In this particular county there are three assistant superintendents, each in charge of a definite part of supervision, and there are also three assistant supervisors; these officers, together with four stenographic and clerical assistants--eleven in all—have entire charge of the administrative and supervisory activities of the county under the control of the county board of education. All the principals of schools are teaching principals, except in five or six of the large schools, where the principal is a part-time teaching principal; all are responsible for the administration of their buildings. But the very important work involved in the details of classroom supervision is in the hands of a highly specialized staff of six assistants. The teachers are divided into fifteen supervisory groups, numbering fifty teachers each, or less, on the basis of the type of school or the grade or grades taught, as, e.g., oneteacher rural group; two-teacher rural school, principals; two-teacher rural school, assistants; first-grade group in suburban schools, and so on; particular care is taken to group the teachers so that each supervisor has a special field to cover, either in number of grades or in type of school. Proper coordination in supervisory work is secured by meetings of supervisors with the superintendent, by consultation with principals and with one another, and by a supervisor who has specialized in some particular field assisting in meetings with groups whose members he does not supervise. Also a teacher who has done an unusually good piece of constructive work of interest to other groups presents her results to them in person, or thru a signed mimeographt report; the entire time of one competent stenographic assistant is given to the supervisors for this and other similar work. The fundamental conception of supervision is to bring to each member of the group the collective strength of all its members, and to each group, thru the supervisors, or thru individual members of the group, the collective strength of all the groups so far as this may apply to their work. In other words, cooperation for improving the quality of instruction and for professional growth, both by giving and by receiving on the part of teachers and supervisors, is our aim.
Two or three important achievements may be mentioned: First, a strongly professionalized group of men and women are working intelligently for a unified and common purpose. Secondly, the teachers in our suburban schools and their supervisors, have now an elementary course of study under continuous process of revision that competent authorities rank with the best, and our rural teachers and supervisors are engaged on a similar project to meet our rural-school needs. Thirdly, for ten years a county school system has presented a professional opportunity sufficiently interesting to hold together a group of supervisors of unusual ability, notwithstanding tempting offers to many of them from other school systems.
C. THE TOWNSHIP AS A UNIT FOR LOCAL ADMINISTRATION
R. B. TEITRICK, DEPUTY STATE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION,
HARRISBURG, PA. The centralizing tendencies of the present time are so strong that a fixt practice to concentrate power in county, state, and federal authority challenges the best thought of every student of political science. In principle, the township is the oldest and the simplest form of government known. In the early days the people formed themselves into bands known as "regulators" for the purpose of securing their protection and rights. In England the dwelling-place of the clan became the township, and the home of the tribe became the county. Thomas Jefferson said, “Those wards, called townships in New England, are the vital principle of their government and have proved themselves the wisest inventions ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government and for its preservation."
With the organization of state government following the Declaration of Independence some significant changes in local governments were made, tho the main features of the old systems were adopted in the different states. In the southern states the county was made the unit in civil administration, and it was also made the unit of school administration. In the states of the North and largely in those of the West the township
the civil unit of local administration and for that reason has been made the unit for school organization.
We should have two sources of school authority, the central government -the state and county, with adjustable minimum requirements and the local government—the township. Both of these should cohere in one system. A great problem in educational administration is the proper balance between central authority and local representation.
The foundation of a good system of schools is good administration. The education and training of children is the object. At present there are three types of school organization: (1) the district system, (2) the countyunit system, and (3) the township system.
The district unit is the smallest division of administration, embracing an area two or three miles square, in which a single school is located. Each district has its own board of directors, which selects the teacher, furnishes supplies, fixes the tax rate, determines the length of its school term, and decides what improvements shall be made. As a unit of administration it is expensive, inefficient, and unprogressive. It is condemned by the entire educational force of the country.
The county unit has not held its place in local administration partly because it is too large for a primary. assembly and too small for a representative legislature. A central government alone tends to become a mere shell of officialdom. There are no officials who can do more or do less without being sent to prison than a county board of education.
The constitution of Illinois provided that the legislature should enact a law for the organization of townships under which any county having the county unit might act when a majority of its voters should so determine. The two systems being thus brought into immediate contact in the same state with free choice between them left to the people, the township-unit system has almost completely supplanted the county-unit system.
Pennsylvania tried the county-unit plan in 1834 and changed to the township-unit plan in 1836. A sound and healthful beginning was made