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belonging to the state, except such parts thereof as might be reserved, or appropriated to public use, or ceded to the United States, which shall hereafter be sold or disposed of, together with the fund denominated the Common School fund, and all moneys heretofore appropriated by law for the use and benefit of said fund, should be and remain a perpetual fund, the interest to be inviolably appropriated and applied to the support of common schools throughout the state ; that the net revenues of the U. S. Deposit Fund, should likewise beinviolably applied to the same purpose, after meeting all existing appropriation; and that the legislature should, at its first session after the adoption of the proposed constitution, and from time to time thereafter as should be necessary, provide by law for the free education and instruction of every child between the ages of four and sixteen years, whose parents, guardians or employers, shall be resident in the state, in the Common Schools now established, or which should thereafter be established therein—the expense of such education and instruction after applying the public funds as above provided,to be defrayed by taxation, at the same time and in the same manner as provided by law for the liquidation of town and county charges. This latter provision, relating to the establishment of free schools, the committee proposed to submit separately to the people of the state, for their sanction. On the 1st day of October, Mr. Bowpish, of Montgomery, made a powerful and eloquent appeal to the Convention in behalf of this great measure of Free Schools, in which he was sustained by Mr. NICOLL, of New York, Mr. WoRDEN, of Ontario, Mr. PATTERSON, of Chautauque, Mr. RUSSELL, of St. Lawrence, and others; and on the 8th of October, the day preceding the adjournment of the Convention, the first section reported by the committee permanently appropriating the proceeds of State lands and the Common School fund, to the support of common schools, was after some discussion adopted by a vote of 104 to 3. Mr. NICOLL then moved the adoption of the following section, to be separately submitted to the people, viz: “$6. The Legislature shall provide for the free education and instruction of every child of the State in the common schools, now established, or which shall hereafter be established therein.” . This section was adopted by a vote of 57 to 53, on a call for the ayes and noes; and a provision added on motion of Mr. Ruggios, of Dutchess, by a vote of 82 to 26, directing the legislature to provide for raising the necessary taxes in the several school districts, to carry out the intention of the section. As thus modified, the entire ninth article of the proposed constitution, as reported by the committee, was agreed to by the convention and ordered to be engrossed. The convention then took a recess for dinner. On the assembling of the Convention in the afternoon, Mr. ARPHAxED LooMIs, of Herkimer, offered a resolution to refer the article to a committe of ONE with instructions to strike out the two last Sections, relating to the establishment of Free Schools, and report the same as amended to the Convention INSTANTER. Mr. TAGGART; of Genesee, sustained, and Mr. TownsLND, of New York, opposed this motion ; but under the operation of the previous question, it prevailed by a vote of 61 to 27 ; and Mr. Loomis being appointed the committee, immediately reported as instructed, and his report being agreed to by the Convention, the provision for the establishment of Free Schools, as a portion of the Constitution was finally defeated. The ninth article as adopted is as follows: “The Capital of the Common School Fund; the capital of the Literature Fund, and the capital of the United States Deposit Fund, shall be respectively preserved inviolate. The revenue of the said common school fund shall be applied to the support of common schools; the revenue of the said literature fund shall be applied to the support of academies; and the sum of $25,000 of the revenues of the United States Deposit fund shall each year be appropriated to and made a part of the capital of the said common school fund” . . - - . On the 1st of October, of this year, SAMUEL L. HoLMEs, Esq., of the County of Westchester, received the appointment of State Deputy Superintendent of common schools, to supply the vacancy occasioned by the resignation and retirement on account of ill health of the then incumbent S. S. Randall, who had held the office during the two preceding administrations, and up to the present period. From the annual report of the Superintendent for 1847, it appeared that the number of organized school districts in the state, on the first of July preceding, was 11,008; the number of children between the ages of 5 and 16, 704,000; the number of children of all ages under instruction in the common school during the year 1845, 742,433; the amount of public money applied during the same year to the payment of teachers wages, $635,051.15; the amount contributed on rate bills for the same purpose $460,764.78 making an aggregate of $1,095,815.93 ; the amount of public money expended in the purchase of libraries and school apparatus in the several districts, $95,881.86, and the number of volumes in the several District Libraries, 1,203,139, being an increase during the year reported of 57,889 volumes. “A successful administration of the school laws of the State,” observes the superintendent “requires an intelligent and active local, as well as general supervision; and without the former it is believed the present organization must eventually be abandoned, and one less complex in its details and arrangements and less stringent in its requirements, adopted in the place of it. Numerous plans, no doubt, might be suggested on paper, giving promise of great excellence if adopted ; but when brought to the test of actual experiment they will entirely fail to accomplish the object designed. Radical changes in any system of public instruction, perfected by years of trial, and accommodated to the habits and inclination of the community, will be found a hazardous expedient. After struggling through a long series of years to elevate our schools, to infuse a greater zeal and excite a higher interest in regard to them, without advancing one step in attaining these objects, actual visitation and inspection were provided as a substitute for an inefficient local supervision ; and this duty was enjoined upon officers designated by law. The results of this change have been and now are seen and deeply felt in our own state and by our people, and have justly excited commendation and approval wherever they are known in other states of the Union. “The actual external and internal condition of our common schools, always a subject intensely iuteresting to the philanthropist, and the patriotic statesman, is such in the judgment of the Superintendent as will afford much satisfaction in regard to the present, and allow high hopes for the future. That more might have been accomplished since the establishmen; of our system, and under other and more favorable circumstances, is quite probable; but that we now see upwards of seven hundred and forty thousand of the youth of our state resorting to the common schools in pursuit of knowledge, should excite in us profound gratitude to the All-wise disposer of national events, and the highest respect for the founders of the system.” The Superintendent also renewed his recommendation of the preceding year in relation to the appropriation of the whole or a portion of the Library money of the several districts, to the payment of teachers' wages, under a vote of the district subject to the approbation of the department. Under the provisions of an act passed in 1846, schools for the instruction of Indian children were organized on the Onendaga, Cattaraugus, Allegany and St. Regis reservations, under circumstances eminently favorable to the intellectual and moral improvement of this class of the population. Gov. Young, in his annual message to the legislature, for the present year, thug alluded to the Normal School : “The State Normal School continues to advance in public estimaticn and public usefulness. Its only object is to improve the teachers of common schools, and any progress in the advancement of that object, it quite apparent, must exert a salutary influence on the cause of education throughout the state.”
The Executive Committee, in their annual report, stated that the number of pupils in attendance during the fourth term of the school, commencing in May, and closing in September, 1846, was 205, and that every county, with a single exception, was represented. The number of graduates, at the close of the third term, was 47, and of the fourth, 63. “It is found,” observe the committee, “upon examination of the school register, that since Dec. 18, 1844, 508 students have attended the school for a longer or a shorter period. Of this number 178 are now in the school; 6 have died; 14 were found to be incompetent for teaching, and were at an early day advised to engage in other pursuits; 11 left on account of ill health, unfitting them alike for study or teaching ; and 29 left at an early period of their connection with the school, relinquishing for various reasons the purpose of teaching. If these numbers be added, their sum will be found to be 238; and if this last number be subtracted from the whole number on the register, the remainder to be accounted for is 270. Of these 270, 144 are graduates of the school, and the committee know that 129 of them have been engaged in teaching since their graduation ; and of the remaining 15 graduates one has died, and the rest, with the exception of four, are believed to be teaching, though no definate knowledge of their pursuits has been obtained. It may also be proper to state, that those persons who have not been heard from, were graduates of last term, and sufficient time has hardly elapsed to afford an opportunity of learning their pursuits. Of the remainder of the 270, numbering 126, who left the school prior to graduation, nearly all, on leaving, declared that it was their intention to teach. 84 are known to have taught since they left, and but few of the others have been heard from. Thus, it appears that the school has sent out 213 persons, who, when heard from, were actually engagred in teaching. In many instances, also, accounts have been received of the manner in which these students were acquitting themselves as teachers, and the committee are happy to say, that as far as heard from, they are giving great satisfaction.” . . . . . . . . . . On the 13th of November, 1847, the legislature passed an act abolishing the office of County Superintendent of Common Schools, and directing that all appeals authorized by law, to be brought to them, should be made directly to the State Superintendent, and that the annual reports heretofore made to them by the Town Superintendents, should be made to the County Clerks, respectively, and condensed statements thereof by them, be transmitted to the department. : . . . - - - For this measuse the friends of the system, although they had, with great unanimity, resisted it for a series of years, were prepared, from the great unpopularity of the office, growing out of the mode of appointment and of the compensation of this class of officers. Their selection had been, very injudiciously, confided to the Boards of Supervisors of the respective counties, whose functions, however useful and important in other respects, had no particular reference to the educational wants and interests of the community; and who were, besides, to a great extent, divided into political parties, upon the varying supremacy of which, the choice of County Superintendents was, too generally made to depend, without especial regard to the intellectual and moral qualifications of the candidate for the important and responsible station he was destined to fill. While, therefore, far the greater number of of ficers appointed by them, were men eminently qualified for the discharge of their duties, there were some who were justly obnoxious to the charge, not only of incapacity, but of a perversion of the high functions devolved upon them to sinister personal and political ends; and the indignation excited by these instances of disregard of duty and moral obliquity, gradually extended itself to other localities where no reasonable grounds for suspicion existed. ' The pecuniary burden likewise, of defraying one-half the salary of these officers from the county treasuries, was magnified and dwelt upon by the interested and designing; and the legislature was annually flooded with petitions for the abolition of the office, as unnecessary, oppressive and improperly administered. Committee after committee, to whom these petitions were referred, reported against the adoption of the measure desired and the ablest and soundest arguments were brought to bear upon the great and manifest utility of the office. It was clearly and repeatedly shown that the abuses complained of were such as admitted of an easy and practical remedy, while the advantage secured by the retention of this class of officers could be obtained through no other agency. Public clamor, however, persisted in demanding the repeal of the obnoxious act; and notwithstanding the avowed and strong opposition of the successive heads of the department, of the several committees of both houses of the legislature, charged with the supervision of the interests of public instruction, and of the great body of the most enlightened friends of education throughout the state, the measure was finally carried through at the extra session, convoked for the purpose of enacting the several new laws rendered necessary by the adoption of the amended constitution. - - . The effect of this measure upon the prosperity of the common school system was, in many essential respects, most disastrous. During a period of nearly forty years its progress had been uninterruptedly onward; and a succession of wise enactments had strengthened and matured its foundations and expanded its usefulness in every direction. The abolition of that feature, which, more, perhaps, than any other, constituted its distinguishing characteristic, and gave to it its peculiar symmetry and power, was the first retrograde step in its history. Its immediate consequences were felt in the comparative inefficiency and inutility of the local and general supervision of the schools—in the absence of any connecting link between the department and the several town, and dis. trict officers, and the inhabitants of the districts—in the discontinuance of a local appellate tribunal, where the numerous controversies constantly springing up, relative to the external arragements of the various districts, might be equitably adjusted by an officer on the spot—and in the utter impossibility of obtaining with any accuracy, those statistical details in reference to the practical operation of the system, of so great value to the department, the legislature, and the public. Town Superintendents, however well qualified for the specific discharge of the duties devolved upon them, were, for obvious reasons, wholly incapable of supplying the place in the system, which had been assigned to this higher class of officers. Their jurisdiction was strictly local—their peculiar duties circumscribed—their iufluence necessarily confined to their respective towns—and their powers limited ; while the county Superintendents were in constant and regular communication, not only with the head of the department, but with their colleagues throughout the state—their influence extensive—and their means of usefulness unrestricted. At the same time, the legislature passed the “Act for the establishment of Teachers' Institutes,” by which the sum of sixty dollars was appropriated annually from the income of the United States Deposit Fund, payable on the order of the several county treasurers, to be expended for the use and benefit of teachers' institutes, in each of the counties of the state where a majority of the town superintendents shall unite in desiring its expenditure for this purpose, and file a certificate thereof with the county clerk. An advisory committee, consisting of three of such town Superintendents, is required to be appointéd by the counly clerk, to make the necessary arrangements for organizing and managing such institute, and public notice is to be given by him to teachers and others who may desire to become such, specifying the time and place of meeting of such institute. The advisory committee are also authorized to procure the services of suitable lecturers and teachers for such institute. Whenever the county treasurer shall receive satisfactory evidence, that not less than fifty, or in counties, whose population is under thirty thousand, not less than thirty teachers, or individuals intending to become such within one year, shall have been in regular attendance on such institute for ten days, he is authorized and required to audit and allow the accounts of such advisory committee, not exeeeding the sum of sixty dollars, for the expenses of such institute. On the 15th of December, the various statutes relating to common schools were combined and consolidated into one act, with such alterations and amendments as were deemed expedient. Town Superintendents were authorized to hold their offices for two years; and to enter upon the discharge of their duties respectively on the first Monday of November, subsequent to their election or appointment: and the library law was so modified as to authorize the expenditure of the whole or any portion of the public money received by the respective districts for that purpose, with the approbation of the state Superintendent, in the payment of teachers wages wherever the number of volumes in districts numbering over fifty children between the age of 5 and 16 exceeded one hundred and twenty-five, or one hundred in districts with a less number of children than fifty and where the district was supplied with maps, globes, black boards and the requisite scientific apparatus for the use of the school. Several other alterations of minor importance were made in the details of the system ; and the Superintendent of common schools was authorized to cause the amended act to be published and generally distributed throughout the state.
In his annual Message to the Legislature at the opening of the Session of 1848, Gov. YoUNG, thus adverted to the subject of education: - “In our country, for reasons that have been so often and so well stated, that I need not repeat them, the education of its children has been, and I trust will continue to be, matter of the deepest solicitude. Common schools, from their universality, reaching every neighborhood, and shedding their influence upon every family and into every mind, expelling the primary causes of vice and crime, and erecting altars to patriotism and virtue, have justly been considered the peculiar objects of legislative care. . : “The practical importance of the State Normal School for the education of teachers is begining to be felt ; and in the tone, strength and vigor given to common schools by distributing through the State, teachers who shall have been thoroughly instructed, it is believed will be found most convineing arguments in defence of reasonable, but liberal appropriations by the State to this object.” From the annual report of the Superintendent, it appeared that the number of school districts in the state, on the first of July 1847, was 11,052; number of children between the ages of five and sixteen, 700,443; whole number, of all ages instructed in the common schools of the state during the year 1846, 748,387 ; amount of public money expended in the payment of teachers wages, $595,974,20; amount raised on rate bill for the same purpose $462,840,44 making an aggregate of $1,058,814,64; amount of public money expended in the purchase of libraries and school aparatus $98,791,29 ; and the number of volumes in the several district libraries 1,310,986, being an increase of 107,847, during the year reported. In reference to the establishment of free schools, the Superintendent holds the following language: “The extension of free schools in the state is progressing moderately; and laws are passed nearly every session of the Legislature, providing for their establishment in populous and wealthy villages; while the poorer and less populous districts, in the same towns, are left to struggle on, from year to year, in the best way they can—sustaining a school perhaps only four months in the year, to secure the next apportionment of the public moneys. Is this policy just 7–is it right to discriminate in this manner, between the school children of the state? Why should ample provision be made for the children residing in particular localities, and others turned over to the naked bounties of the state; which, although munificent in the aggregate, are only sufficient to pay a few weeks tuition for each child This great and essential question turns simply on the mode of taxation; by changing this and requiring the boards of supervisors, to raise upon the counties respectively, a sum equal to the amount apportioned from the treasury to each county for the support of schools, and upon the towns another sum equal to the apportionment of such town from the school fund, which would increase the local taxation upon the counties, not to exceed five-tenths of a mill on the valuation in an county, and our schools might be rendered nearly free to every child in the state.