Page images
PDF
EPUB

herald the dawn of the new era of commercial and industrial reconstruction and to prepare the drawings from which structures commensurate with future needs are to be reared. It is the business of education to proclaim to the people that the ability, the poise, the virility, and the efficient human power necessary to master the education problems of this new era can be secured only by paying the price thereof in the brawn and brain markets of the world.

With an ever-increasing hope I have lookt longingly forward to the day when our public schools and the profession of teaching shall, in their management and in their financial policies, be guided by the rules and principles of legitimate business enterprise; to the day when sane ambitions for achievement need not turn aside from the field of education to realize on the ideals which have appeared for them above the horizon of life; to the day when the vocation, the calling, of teaching shall rise in the scale of values to a point where it will be overshadowed by no imposing position in trade, industry, or profession; to the day when the molding of life shall rise in public recognition and in material compensation at least to the level of the importance and dignity of skill in the practical arts.

To attain this end there must be inaugurated a campaign of education in education”—a creative and reconstructive policy that will level the walls of tradition, unloose the bands of outgrown and antiquated custom, and face confidently the public with a service that has marketable value second to none in the competitive marts of the world.

With a progressive educational scheme that would relate the schools vitally to the activities of life, with coordination and cooperation with the supplemental agencies in commerce and industry that are lending their aid to the process of readjustment of the educational program in the interest of economy and efficiency, we are confidently assured that the purse strings of an appreciative public will be loosened and that public education will gather its reward from a grateful and an appreciative people.

EDUCATING THE PUBLIC TO THE FINANCIAL NEEDS

OF THE SCHOOL

GEORGE DRAYTON STRAYER, PROFESSOR OF EDUCATIONAL ADMINISTRATION,

TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, NEW YORK, N.Y. There are two problems involved in educating the public to the financial needs of the school system. The first has to do with convincing the voters that the schools are not able, with their present measure of financial support, to provide the facilities which are necessary for the adequate education of the children of the community. The second involves an analysis of the fiscal problem in such a way as to persuade the voters that they have the ability to pay for the improvements which are contemplated.

In any attempt to convince the public that schools must be improved it is necessary to describe with as great precision as possible the present inadequacies of the school system and to suggest a definite program for its improvement. During the past year the writer had an opportunity to inquire concerning the school facilities available in two cities of considerable size-St. Paul and Omaha. In each of these communities there were those who knew something of the inadequacy of the school plant. When the whole situation was presented, with an analysis which made clear the relative degree of efficiency of the plant as it existed, many people were interested and were willing to vote in support of a program for improving the situation who had on previous occasions been unwilling to support such a movement. When it is shown, for example, by a careful scoring of school buildings that more than half of them are less than 25 per cent efficient in fire protection, all citizens who have children in the schools become interested in the necessity for improvement. If it can be shown as was the case in two of the cities, that approximately half of the school buildings have less than a 50 per cent efficient heating and ventilating system, one may even argue, with some hope of carrying conviction, for the abandonment of some of the poorer buildings.

In each of the school-building surveys which I have undertaken buildings have been found which, on the basis of ranking a perfect building one thousand points, fall below five hundred, and certain buildings have been found which rated between three and five hundred points on the thousandpoint scale. This rating, together with an analysis of the many deficiencies which bring about so low a percentage of efficiency, seemingly carries conviction concerning the needs of the school system which is not always the case when one speaks of poor or inadequate buildings which should be replaced.

In like manner an analysis of the opportunities offered in schools, or rather the lack of opportunities, may help to convince the public of the need of more money for the support of public education. It can be shown, for example, that the only satisfactory method of meeting the demand for differentiated courses of study for the children of the upper grades of the elementary school is thru the establishment of intermediate schools or sixyear high schools. It can be made clear that to provide in all elementary schools the equipment in the household and industrial arts which would give the sort of prevocational training which children want and need would be very much more expensive than to establish a system of intermediate schools. It is obvious, when the facts are presented, that children are retarded in our school systems in large numbers, and that they cannot be expected to profit largely by the courses of study which are provided in the traditional upper grades of the elementary school. It can be establisht just as clearly that there are children who, on account of their superior ability, may do in five years instead of six work now commonly assigned to the last two grades of the elementary school and the high school. When these facts are made available and the program for the establishment of the intermediate school is presented in connection with them, it has been found possible in many communities to secure support for the establishment of the new type of school.

It is not difficult to show by careful examination of the attendance service the degree of efficiency that is achieved by this part of the school administration. When inefficiency is discovered it is almost always accompanied by a lack of support and an inadequate staff in the attendance department. Most people will accept the fact that the enforcement of the compulsory-education law is essential in any attempt to provide an adequate scheme of public education. When it is shown clearly that the attendance department lacks the staff and equipment necessary for making it effective, a long step has been made in the direction of securing adequate support.

An examination of the health service provided for public schools will show in one case a recording of defects with little or no action for their removal or for the improvement of the health of school children. An analysis of the situation in another city will discover the fact that health service of the sort that remedies defects and gets results costs many times more than the medical inspection provided in the other city. When one has available facts concerning the type of service rendered it is not difficult to argue for a support which may cost, instead of fifteen or twenty cents, a dollar per pupil. Departments of educational research can be justified and financial support sought for them to best advantage by pointing out the need for such careful analyses of the work of the school system as have been made by these bureaus in the cities which have already establisht them.

In like manner the relative amount of money invested in supervision by other school systems or by commercial or industrial enterprises may serve, not only to establish the need, but to justify as well the expenditure which will be involved in providing adequate supervision. The public is not greatly imprest with the demand for more money for the schools. It can be induced to see specific needs when they are made as clear and definite as possible. The particular needs of the school system and the benefits which may be expected to accrue to the children form the only adequate basis for asking for increast support for public education.

The second question concerning the ability of the community to pay involves a consideration of the wealth of the community, of its rate of taxation based upon real wealth, of the investment which has been made over a period of years for buildings and equipment, and the like. In the surveys which I have undertaken for the purpose of demonstrating the necessity of providing funds for the development of a more adequate school plant it has seemed wise to compare cities of approximately the same size with respect to their support of public education and to suggest the possibility of more generous support in the light of the amount of money spent in other communities.

In the St. Paul survey it appeared that this city, as compared with those nearest to it in size, had the lowest tax rate per thousand dollars of estimated real value of property and that there were cities that were paying from two to three times as much on a thousand dollars. It appeared as well that while other cities had spent, from 1899 to 1915, in the development of their school plants as much as from twenty to thirty-five dollars per capita, St. Paul had spent only seven dollars and nine cents per capita. It was also shown that the percentage of the total money spent for city maintenance which was expended for schools was lower in this community than in many others comparable to it. Contrasts of this sort can be made in support of the plea for more liberal financial support of schools in those communities which have given less adequate support. The argument in favor of more generous support in the communities which lead will, of course, have to be based upon the willingness of the community to pay more money for superior education.

At the present moment one of the greatest needs in all our school systems is for more adequate salaries for teachers. Thruout the country young men and women are hesitating to enter normal schools or teacher-training classes. The enrolment in these institutions has dropt anywhere from 10 to 40 per cent. Those already at work in the schools have, in large numbers, left the profession on account of the more adequate opportunity offered in industrial or commercial life. The very salvation of our public school system depends upon the paying of salaries adequate to attract and to retain in the teaching profession our best young men and women—those who are most competent to hand on to the children the ideals in which we believe and to teach them to appreciate the institutions which are peculiar to our democratic society. In this case, as in the others which have been mentioned, the community can be made to recognize its obligation only when all the facts are presented. Here too there is a distinct advantage in holding up for consideration those communities which pay more adequate salaries and which are able to maintain a higher standard of preparation for those who would teach in their schools.

Those who are responsible for voting support for our schools will grant increast support only when they are convinst that the investment which they are askt to make is a good one. The process of educating the public to the needs of the school system is not unlike the process of education in any other field. The more facts we can present, the more definite and precise we can be with respect to the needs of the school system, the more weight we shall have with our public. We shall be wise if we add to our statement of needs an analysis of the fiscal problem which will make it clear that the community can, without unduly burdening itself, afford to pay for the improvements which are necessary.

EFFICIENT FINANCE FOR THE CITY SCHOOL SYSTEM

FRANK W. BALLOU, ASSISTANT SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS,

BOSTON, MASS.

Recently in a small gathering of educators the subject of financing education was under consideration. One of those present, whose position and professional standing command respect for his views, exprest himself as believing that the subject of financial economy in education was not worthy of the consideration of educators. He argued that it is the business of educators to get and to spend as much money as possible for education. He defended his position on the ground that it is impossible to spend too much money for educational purposes.

I believe that this is both an indefensible and a dangerous theory. It is a dangerous theory since it implies that, because of the nature of the undertaking, an educator should not be held responsible for an economic expenditure of the funds provided for educational purposes. Men in the educational profession have always been peculiarly free from any imputations of profiting dishonestly by reason of the educational positions which they hold. However, their responsibility for a judicious and economic expenditure of school funds is as great as their moral responsibility for spending school money honestly. Every public official is morally bound to expend money so that it will best serve the purpose for which the public provided it. To this principle the educator should be no exception.

Efficient finance in a city school system depends (1) on the appropriation of a reasonable amount of money for the needs of the schools, and (2) on a rational plan for its distribution to serve those needs. A reasonable amount of money can best be secured thru a fixt tax rate, with the board of education possessing, within limitations, the tax-levying power. A rational distribution of money depends on an effective system of budgetmaking

1. The appropriation of a reasonable amount of money for the schools.The constitutions of the several states of the Union charge their respective state legislatures with the responsibility of maintaining systems of public education. Public education is a state function. The administration of education by a local school committee or board of education does not alter that fact. The board of education acts as an agent of the state as well as a local agent. Logically and legally, therefore, the state legislature may fix the tax rate and thereby determine the amount of money to be provided for school purposes for any city. Not only should the legislature fix the minimum and maximum limits of the tax rate, but the board of education should also be given the authority to appropriate and levy within those limits the amount of money necessary for educational purposes. The board of education, rather than any department of the city government, should possess the tax-levying authority for school purposes, because the

« PreviousContinue »