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completed by similar investigations into the work of other large boards of education.
THE WORK OF THE PHILADELPHIA SCHOOL BOARD
A. Magnitude of the cost of the board of education—In Philadelphia, a city of a million and a half inhabitants, the Board has under its control: 4,000 teachers, 180,000 pupils, $6,000,000 of annual expenditure, $20,000,000 invested in school property.
Twenty-one men are appointed by the Board of Judges to oversee and direct this $20,000,000 school plant. Here follows an account of their stewardship.
B. A board of twenty-one men can not transact business efficiently—They are too numerous to gather around a table and talk, and a large chamber, newspaper reporters, the necessity of rising to address the chair—all of those things result in oratory and bar the possibility of true deliberative action. The great corporations of the country are governed by small boards of directors. It is a recognized fact that business can be effectively transacted in no other way.
C. Committees are appointed to do the work of the Board -The business must be transacted, and as it can not be done by the large group, the Board is split up into committees to which the work is delegated. At present there are ten standing committees of the Philadelphia Board, two with seven members, and eight with five members each.
D. The Board recognizes the inefficiency of a large group, by dividing itself into small groups for the transaction of business. The Philadelphia Board condemns its unwieldy size thru its own committee organization.
E. This dependency of the Board upon committees is so great that almost every item of business coming before the Board is referred to a committee, and the resolutions past by the Board are almost exclusively the product of committee deliberation.
Thus during 1906, 1907, and 1908 of the 694 communica
tions received by the Board, 145 were acted on or filed, 549 were referred to committees.
During the same year, of the 1,386 resolutions past by the Board, 63 originated in the Board; 1,323 were reported from committee.
Motions“ originating in the Board” are those which are made by members of the Board and past by the Board, without the interference of any deliberative body. In Philadelphia most motions originate in committee, and those made in the Board meetings are usually referred to committees.
F. The confidence of the Board in the committees is unbounded—Not only does the Board recognize the value of small deliberative bodies, by committing to them most of its work, but the judgment of the committees is usually accepted without question.
1. During 1906, 1907, and 1908, of the 446 committee reports coming before the Board, 421 were adopted unanimously and, so far as the minutes show, without debate; 3 were referred back to committee; 3 were adopted on a division vote; 14 were debated, and 2 were rejected.
In one of these two cases the committee made a minority report which was responsible for the defeat of the majority report.
2. In addition to accepting the decisions of the committees as final, the Board, as a further testimony to its unbounded confidence in committee action, constantly suspends its rules when they conflict with committee recommendations. During the three years under consideration 438 committee reports were accepted. Of these 78 involved a suspension of rules.
3. At times, by a suspension of the rules, full power to act is vested in the committees. They are given unlimited authority, and during the time that this authority is delegated, the committees decide important matters wholly independent of the Board.
On June 11, 1907, the rules were suspended to adopt :he following: “That the clause in the By-Laws of the Board that awards of contracts shall be subject to the approval of the Board, be suspended so far as awards may be made by the Committee on Property between the meeting of the Board in June and the following September, and that the Committee have full power to award contracts during that time without further action of the Board."
This recommendation was unanimously adopted, in spite of the fact that a later meeting of the Board always is held between the June and September meetings and was held in 1907, on the 19th of July.
On July 14, 1908, the Board adopted the following resolution:
“ That the Committee on Property be authorized without further action, to award contracts and purchase sites between the meetings of the Board in July and September next.”
The following resolution from the Committee on Finance and Accounts was adopted January 8, 1907:
“That all bills for payment due on contracts, ground rents and pay rolls of officers and employes for the month of January be referred to the Committee on Finance and Accounts with power to act.”
Power was placed in the hands of the Committee on Text Books and Supplies, April 14, 1908:
To award the contracts for mechanical equipment and laboratory supplies, etc., opened on April 2, 1908."
G. The work of the Board of Education is in effect performed not as is commonly supposed by the Board of twentyone authorized by law, but by ten boards of five or seven members working sometimes under the general direction and sometimes practically independent of the Central Board. The extent of the committee independence may be gathered from the following instances taken from the minutes of the Board, 1906-1908 :
Committee on Property, after stating promotions and elections of 15 employes—“Resolved that the above-named promotions and elections be confirmed to date from time stated."
Committee on Text Books and Supplies—“Resolved that the awards of contracts, as enumerated above, be approved.”
Committee on Finance and Accounts—" Resolved that warrants be drawn in favor of the persons named in Account Book No. 3-A, pages 30 to 62, inclusive, aggregating $601,673.37."
The Committee on Property reports the following awards of contracts (47 contract awards follow)—“Resolved that the foregoing awards of contracts be approved."
Committee on Normal School of Qualification of Teachers:
“ The following named persons have been elected teachers in the school.” (19 by name.) “ The election of teachers was approved.”
H. The educational work of a city is distorted when it is being carried on by 10 boards, acting with a greater or less degree of independence. A scrutiny of the expenditures for various analogous purposes will establish this fact and show that the funds are not apportioned in accordance with the needs of the various branches of school work.
There can be no doubt that the elementary schools are in dire need of finances. Three thousand children are in rented buildings, 1,000 are on the waiting list, 15,000 on half time, and the teachers are struggling with an average per class of 45 pupils.
A striking contrast exists between the funds provided for the inadequate elementary schools, and the higher schools, which, while actually very poorly provided for, are comparatively well off.
Pupils per teacher, 45.
Pupils per teacher, 25.
Thus the elementary schools, with nearly twice as many pupils per teacher, are receiving only one-fourth as much money per pupil as the high schools. This in spite of the notoriously bad condition in the elementary schools.
The same fact is even more strikingly illustrated in the 1907 expenditures for supplies per pupil.
Elementary schools, $2.56.
A high school, with its laboratories, requires a greater expenditure per pupil than an elementary, but a relation of 10 to i between the two expenditures is unjustifiable.
For the care of the 250 elementary schools, the Board provides one committee. For the care of the seven high schools, the Board provides three committees. The disproportionate results shown above are the inevitable outcome of such a system of committee control. Three committees, looking after the welfare of seven schools, can do their work far more effectively than one committee, struggling to provide for 250 schools. The high schools are moderately well equipped. The elementary schools are infamously neglected.
I. Conclusion-No large Board can transact the volume of business coming before the Philadelphia Board of Education. Only small bodies deliberate, and only by deliberation can business be efficiently transacted. The Philadelphia Board acknowledges these facts by referring its business to committees of five and seven men and accepting their decisions as final. The large Board of Education, as a business body, is a selfacknowledged failure.
A CONTRAST BETWEEN THE WORK OF LARGE AND
An estimate of the character of the work done by a large Board may readily be made by contrasting the proceedings of small and large boards.
The following are condensed statements of the proceedings of the boards in question. They were made from the official minutes of the several boards and show, as clearly as can be shown in a brief space, the working of the different boards. The most notable fact in these contrasted proceedings is that the small boards hear all of the business which the Board is supposed to transact, while the large Board is dependent wholly upon its committees.