Page images

board is organized for the purpose of providing public education and is more cognizant of the needs of the schools than is any city department. The administrative agency which controls the appropriations in the school budget also by that fact determines the educational possibilities of the school system. That agency should be the board of education. There are three advantages in this arrangement: (1) it keeps school finances out of politics; (2) it increases annually the amount of money appropriated for school purposes as the assest valuation increases; and (3) it makes possible the carrying out of a systematic educational policy over a period

of years.

2. A rational plan for the distribution of money for the schools. Having discust the need of a fixt tax rate as a means of securing a reasonable amount of money for educational purposes in a city school system, let us now turn our attention to the other aspect of efficient financing, viz., the preparation of a school budget according to which the available money is to be spent. I shall discuss what appear to me to be five conditions of efficient budget-making.

a) The first condition of successful budget-making is knowledge on the part of those who make the budget of the amount of money available for school purposes during the financial year for which the budget is to be made. In conducting one's personal business successfully one decides on his expenditures in relation to his income. So in making a school budget the amount of money which can or should legitimately be spent for the several activities of a school system depends directly on the amount of money available. With a fixt tax rate this condition of successful budgetmaking is satisfied.

b) The second condition of effective budget-making is the general recognition that making a school budget is primarily an educational function and as such should be supervised and directed by educators. It is relatively immaterial who actually compiles the budget, or who makes the original estimates. It is, however, of fundamental importance that the estimates should be prepared according to the educational policies of the superintendent's office, and that the eliminations and reductions should not be made by those who may or may not be familiar with the effect which such eliminations and reductions may have on the educational activities of the school system.

c) The third condition of successful budget-making is an amount of time for making the estimates commensurate with the difficulty of the problem and the importance of public education. In Boston the Department of Educational Investigation and Measurement was askt to make a study of the system of budget-making. It proposed that more time be secured for making a school budget by estimating in advance the amount of money likely to be available from taxation, from income, and from unexpended balances, and proceeding at once with the preparation of a tentative budget. This is not the proper occasion for discussing in detail the statistical methods by which the department showed that such estimates could be made. It is important, however, to describe briefly the problem involved and to indicate the results secured by applying the statistical method.

In Boston, while the money available for school purposes comes from taxation, from income, and from unexpended balances, more than 96 per cent of the total amount available comes from taxation. A statistical method of making estimates of money available from taxation was workt out and applied to the twelve years from 1905 to 1916. In each case the estimate of the amount of money available from taxation was within $10,000 of the actual amount. In three cases it was within $1000 of the actual sum available. In the nearest case there was a difference of only $228.21 in the amount of money actually available and the estimate of the money that would be available. In eight out of the twelve years, or in 75 per cent of the cases, the estimate was within $3000 of the actual figures. When one considers how relatively small these differences are in the budget of over $6,000,000, it is clear that the results from the application of this statistical method are sufficiently close to the actual amounts available to make the method reliable for this purpose. Because the estimates of gross income can be made in advance, Boston now begins the preparation of a tentative budget on December 1. When the actual amounts of money are later known the preliminary estimates are corrected.

d) The fourth condition of successful budget-making is a clear definition of the authority and responsibility of those who make budgetary estimates. Under favorable conditions the absence of clearly defined authority may not cause trouble. On the other hand, during times of stress the absence of such well-defined duties and responsibilities may prove a calamity.

e) The fifth condition of successful budget-making is knowledge on the part of those who make the budget of the annual costs of the several school activities over a period of years. In order that knowledge of the amount of money expended in previous years may be utilized in budgetmaking, there must be (1) a detailed system of accounting intimately related to the appropriation items in the budget, and (2) an adequate plan for disseminating this financial information by the business office among those who make budget estimates.

Differentiation of functions in order to fix official responsibility and to increase efficiency is undoubtedly sound administrative practice. Nevertheless the centralization in one office of all business matters relating to education has undoubtedly tended to promote the feeling that educators should not concern themselves with educational finances. More important than this, it has also tended to make it difficult, if not impossible, for anyone in the school service to keep himself adequately informed on educational costs. In most cities the only participation one has in financial matters is to write his requisition and to forward it to the business or purchasing agent. He never knows how much expenditure his requisition entailed, for he never sees the bill. To be sure, at the end of the financial year a report is issued, but the expenditures of a school or department, or of any activity, are so generalized and summarized that for the most part the report furnishes inadequate information concerning detailed costs. By segregating the business matters into one office or department financial information necessary to the educational offices has been taken away. For effective administration of the superintendent's office this knowledge must be restored.

When the school budget reaches the school committee it should be a well-balanst, detailed, statistical analysis of the estimated expenditures for the next financial year. Such a budget can only be prepared in relation to the annual expenditures of preceding years and in consideration of the extensions contemplated in the general educational policy of the school system. When considering budget estimates the superintendent needs to have before him a statement of annual expenditures for various educational activities over a period of years, in order that he may distinguish among the estimates furnisht him those that are necessary, those that are desirable, and those that are clearly for extension of activities. Appropriations would naturally be made to satisfy these estimates, in order named, and the appropriations for extensions of activities should not be made until the necessary and desirable expenditures for all present activities have been largely, if not wholly, provided for. With a detailed statement of expenditures before him the superintendent has a comparatively reliable fact basis on which to judge the trustworthiness and justification of the estimates of his subordinates, and also has a fair basis for approving, reducing, eliminating, or increasing those estimates.

If budget estimates are to represent adequately the amount of money needed they must be based on facts and not on fancies. The most reliable fact basis is that furnisht in an adequate system of accounting. If the information contained in the accounts is to be available it must be made accessible thru some plan which shall be recognized as an integral part of the system of making a school budget.

DISCUSSION ALBERT SHIELS, superintendent of schools, Los Angeles, Cal.--Concerning Mr. Ballou's decision on the advisability of a uniform source of revenue unaffected by the vicissitudes of political interest there can be no dissent. His five principles in budgetmaking permit neither question nor criticism. Therefore I shall endeavor only to supplement his contribution by reference to other aspects of city financing which the time at his disposal did not permit him to consider.

School expenditures may be considered in a variety of ways. There are, however, two principal accounts from which all others are derived: (1) expenditures for permanency which include provision for site for buildings and for permanent equipment; and (2) expenditures for annual outlays, which include provisions for supervision, instruction, supplies, and repairs.

1. Expenditures for permanency.—If we could determine and apportion these expenditures annually, then sites could be purchast and buildings erected and equipt out of each year's income precisely as salaries or supplies are now provided for. The annual income from taxes, however, is rarely used to cover cost of sites and buildings. This is logical, inasmuch as neither a building nor a site is "consumed” in a single year, but thru a long series of years. Therefore the cost should be extended over a series of years. Moreover, the usual annual tax yields could scarcely provide for these things, so recourse is had to bond issues.

When the accumulated bond debt is not heavy there is a great temptation toward careless expenditures. It is so fascinating, this method of getting money just by voting for it! But easy voting sometimes means hard paying. Bond issues have an uncanny way of growing while we sleep. When the awakening comes, it is very sudden. The public discovers that the interest itself has become too heavy, heavy enough to make a respectable income for sites and buildings of itself; or the last voted issue can be marketed only at a high rate of interest because there have been too many others; or the city is near its debt limit. Then comes the unreasoning panic. The public will vote for nothing, and there is a new kind of waste even worse than that of extravagance. The same public that was so quick to vote bonds and the same newspapers that had always supported favorable action join the great chorus of protest. A city that but a little time before was building palatial structures now refuses to provide even meager school accommodations. Part time, crowded classes, frame additions, and the other long train of school troubles follow thick upon one another. In all the tiresome and fruitless game of criticism and recrimination the bond interest charges go silently but remorselessly on, yielding nothing to sites nor buildings, piling up the tax rate, and making affairs yet worse confounded year by year.

Whether there is an abundance of bond money in reserve or whether the time of panic has come, there are three things which sooner or later must be done: one is to fix a policy the second is to provide a means of carrying it out, and the third is to tell the public the facts. The policy should be: that sites should be selected, not as sudden necessities require, but on a definite extension of a period of years; that some buildings should not be so extravagantly constructed as to prevent decent accommodations in other and usually less fortunate parts of the city; that the administration should utilize existing conditions by insistence upon small classes, but should ameliorate these conditions by having such transfers and reorganizations made as will get the most out of the existing facilities.

American cities today are suffering because when land was cheap educational authorities had no conception of the standard site. They bought small plots, or poorly placed plots, sometimes as bargains and sometimes because there was no vision.

2. Expenditures for annual outlays.-Among all the things that may be said concerning the important problem of annual expenditures three things deserve consideration. The first is the need of standardizing equipment, supplies, and the total ratio of teachers to the whole school attendance, tho this of course involves a departure from the standard ratio in each individual case.

The second thing is to observe the comparative costs thru a series of years. If, for example, it is shown that for almost no greater number of pupils there is a considerable increase in per capita cost the school administration must be prepared to show that there is a good reason for this condition. Nothing should be left to luck.

The third thing is a correct notion of the meaning of school experimentation in education. Education is improving constantly, but that does not relieve supervising authorities from trying out what they propose to introduce in a reasonable way. Before an experiment is establisht it should be the duty of an administrator (a) to state precisely the object in mind; (b) to state the method by which he proposes to carry it on; (c) to show how he proposes to check the experiment by indicating his method of discovering whether the values expected will be yielded; (d) to indicate precisely what the cost of the experiment will be; (e) in case the experiment should prove successful, to indicate what it ought to cost when generally extended thruout the city. Too many American cities have surviving types of organization started doubtless for some good reason not now apparent, without any history of their successes or failures. They continue only as traditions or thru inertia.

The real object of an experiment is, not economy only, but a discovery of values before extensions. This ought reasonably to be expected of any competent person. I do not believe that it is the business of the school superintendent to find how cheaply an educational system can be administered. But it is his business to abolish waste and to get a maximum dividend for every cent he expends. It is not evidence that educational dividends are being obtained merely by affirming that they are obtained. We must remember that in education as in every other phase of human effort responsibility lies upon us, not merely to affirm excellence, but to give some evidence that excellence has been attained.







One of my first professional texts clearly emphasized the point that the main business of the school was instruction and not government. Order was not to take the place of industry, nor discipline the place of instruction.

Aside from the teacher and the pupil the course of study is the most important adjunct in the school. Teaching is worth while only in so far as it arouses thought regarding those things that are worth thinking about. Pages, chapters, topics, and subtopics are not a curriculum. Material, places, conditions, and their relationship to the pupil, present or future, when properly organized, not by the superintendent at his desk, but by teachers, principals, supervisors, and superintendents, after survey trial and application, might form a fair basis for the curriculum.

The public school develops chiefly habits, ideas, and attitudes. Current educational literature is stressing the development of the intellect thru the grouping of curricula material in terms of social problems or projects. If the curriculum is to be interpreted so as to modify the pupils' behavior, both the method and the content must be taken into consideration.

The teachers should not only be led in building the course of study, but likewise be directed in its application; the training of leaders in an educational system is of equal importance to the selection of those capable

« PreviousContinue »