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Public Instruction," to be appointed by the legislature triennially, in the sante manner with other state officers; who should possess the powers and discharge the duties of Superintendent of Common Schools, and be ex-officio Chancellor of the Regents of the University, &c. The several colleges and academies of the state were to be subject to his visitation, and he was required particularly to visit and inspect those academies in which departments for the education of teachers were established. No definite action was however had on this proposition, by the legislature.
The following is an extract from Gov. Marcy's message at the opening of the session of 1836:
and no more than sufficient, to operate as an inducement to the inhabitants of school districts to contribute liberally to their support.” “It is, from the nature of the subject, impossible to fix the exact limit, below which a reduction of the sum distributed (including the amount raised by taxation in the several towns) would cease to operate as an inducement to the inhabitants to assume the residue of the expenses of maintaining the schools, or beyond which its increase would render their burdens so light as to create inattention to the concerns of the districts. It may, however, be safely assumed, that, at any point between forty and fifty cents per scholar, it is not probable that either of these evils would be felt; and that its augmentation above the maximum, on the one hand, or its reduction on the other, below the minimum above named, ought to be avoided, if practicable.” The effect of the subsequent increase of the sum so distributed during the past few years, has certainly, it may here be remarked, by no means impeached the soundness and accuracy of this proposition; the extent to which the schools have improved being clearly attributable to other and more potent influences than the augmentation of the public funds applicable to their support.
At the opening of the session of 1837, Gov. Marcy again brought the subject of common school education before the legislature, in connection with the act of congress of the preceding year, authorizing the deposit of the share belonging to this state, of the surplus revenue of the United States, with the state for safe keeping, until required by the general government. He recommended the appropriation from the income of this fund, of an amount equal to the sum annually distributed to the common schools, to be applied to the same purpose, viz. the payment of the wages of duly qualified teachers; making the annual distribution for this purpose, $220,000—a liberal appropriation to the academies, “having in view principally the design of rendering them more efficient as seminaries for educating common school teachers—and the addition of the residue of such income to the capital of the common school fund. He also recommended the transfer of the general superintendence and supervision of the several academies of the state, from the Regents of the University to the secretary of state in his capacity of Superintendent of Common Schools, disapproving of the proposed erection of a separate department of public instruction, and suggesting the appointment of an additional deputy to aid the secretary in the performance of this portion of his official duties. He commends the efforts in progress for the promotion of popular instruction by the diffusion of education through all ranks of the people, and the devotion of talents and wealth to this great cause; and expresses his conviction, that aided by the powerful co-operation of the legislature, its advancement may confidently be anticipated.
The sum of $110,000 was this year apportioned among the several school districts, the number of which had augmented to 10,207. The number of children between five and sixteen residing in the several districts from which reports had been received, was 538,398; and the number instructed within the year, 532,167; being a diminution of 9,234 from the number instructed the preceding year. This diminution is accounted for by the Superintendent, “by the prevalence of an absorbing attention, in a considerable portion of the community, to their pecuniary interests rather than to the interests of education.” “Strong excitements in the community," he observes, “especially when continued for a length of time, are in their nature unfriendly to the cause of education, and of such excitements none is perhaps so much so as that which is characteristic of periods when fortunes are amassed without effort and by the mere chances of speculation.” “ In the year 1834,” he continues, "the common schools were in better condition, in all respects, than they had been at any previous time; and, as is well known, that year was distinguished by a serious depression in the business affairs of the country. The interests of education seem never to be better secured than in seasons when individuals are compelled to husband their resources, and when the highest as well as the most certain re
wards are those which are the fruits of patient industry. No period seems less propitious to the promotion of those interests, than that season of delusive prosperity in which multitudes are tempted by a few instances of wealth suddenly acquired, to lay aside their accustomed avocations, and embark in the precarious pursuits of fortune.”
In his message at the opening of the session of 1838, Gov. Marcy repeats his recommendations of the previous year, in reference to the proper disposition of the revenue of the United States deposit fund, with the additional suggestion that a portion of this fund be devoted to the purchase of District LIBRARIES, in such of the several school districts of the state as should raise by taxation an equal amount for that object. In reference to the departments for the education of teachers connected with the respective academies designated by the Regents of the University, he expresses the opinion, that however ably conducted, they must of necessity be inadequate to the supply of the requisite number of teachers for the common schools, and suggests the establishment of county normal schools, “on principals analogous to those on which our system of common shools is founded." An increase of the number of academies provided with teachers' departments, is also suggested, the additional expense to be defrayed from the revenue of the deposit fund.
The number of school districts had now increased to 10,345 : the number of children between five and sixteen residing in the several districts from which reports were received, to 536,882 and the number taught was 524,188; showing a still further diminution of nearly 8,000 from the preceding year.
During this session the sum of $160,000 was added from the annual revenue of the United States deposit fund, to the amount to be apportioned among the several school districts of the state ; of which $55,000 was is required to be expended by the trustees in the purchase of suitable books for a district library, and the residue for the payment of the wages of duly qualified teachers. An equal amount was also required to be raised by taxation on the several counties and towns, and applied to the same purpose. The residue of the income, after making certain appropriations to the colleges and academies, was added to the capital of the common school fund.
On the 7th of March, the Hon. DANIEL D. BARNARD, from the literature committee of the house, submitted a masterly and eloquent report upon the general subject of public instruction, to which we regret that our limits compel us only to advert. Many important and valuable suggestions for the extension and greater efficiency of our systems of popular education will be found embraced in this document. No specific action, however, in accordance with the recommendations of the report was had.
At the opening of the session of 1839, Gov. SEWARD called the attention of the legislature, in an especial manner, to the interests of elementary public instruction ; expressing his conviction of the paramount necessity of elevating the standard of education ; recommending legislative co-operation in the furtherance of the effort to engraft the system of normal schools upon our institutions for education, through the agency of the academies ; strongly commending the district library system; and urging the indispensable necessity of a more thorough and efficient visitation and supervision of our common schools.
By the annual report of the superintendent, it appeared that the number of organized school districts in the state was, at this period, 10,583; the number of children between the ages of five and sixteen years, residing in the several districts from which reports had been received, 639,749; and the number of children under instruction, 528,913; exceeding by 4,725 the number instructed the preceding year.
In reference to the act of April, 1838, appropriating the income of the U. S. Deposit Fund to the purposes of education, the Superintendent observes :