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increase, to double itself in twelve years. But Wisconsin has far out-stripped the calculations of these celebrated political economists, as the following table of the successive annual increase of children entitled to share in the School Fund apportionment, from the organization of the State to the present time, will show: Year.
Children. Apportionment. Per Scholar. 1850.
70,457 $588 00 8,3-10 cts. 1851.
92,163 46,908 37
111,883 63,703,84 1853,
123,909 56,128 31 1854,
198,541 97,949 52 1855.
156,405 125,906 02 80 1-2 1856.
188,304 131,812 80 70 1857.
213,886. 141, 164 76
241,545 181,158 75 1859.
264,077 It will thus be seen, that the children of school age have increased with rapid and regular strides from 70,000 to 264,000, in the short space of nine years, or doubled in about every five years. If we are to be guided by the teachings of the past increase, we must learn that it will greatly outstrip in ratio the augmentation of the School Fund, however fortunate we may be in saving it from being diverted to other purposes. We have not only the natural increase, which in an agricultural State like ours, and one so highly favorable to health, is unusually large, but a very large addition by immigration, which must for many years to come continue to be a powerful element of increase.
MR.Root, our first State Superintendent, in his First Annual Report, gave some estimates of the probable increase of children entitled to share in the school money, placing the number, in 1850, at 91,065; in 1860, at 231,898, and in 1875, at 674,317. Though doubtless regarded as chimerical at the time, these estimates were far too moderate ; for the report of children up to September 1, 1857, shows ten thousand more than he had estimated for 1860. Mr.Root also intimated, that about 1860, the ratio of increase of children over the School Fund would become apparent, and that the income of that Fund would
but little over one half the expense of educating the children of the State, and in 1875, not one-fifth the expense.
It has already been stated, that thus far the school children of the State have doubled in about every five years. Let us, however, take as a guide, the average increase of the past three years, which is 25,232. These figures will, I have no doubt, be proven jy the experience of many years to come, to be rather below than above the real increase. Even this ratio of increase, for a period of twenty-five or fifty years, is wonderful, as the figures themselves will show:
Children of School age. 1859..
390, 160 1865
970, 396 1888,
1,020,860 1909, (fifty years hence,)....
1,525,500 These figures may appear large to some, but our past experience fully warrants the steady increase they indicate. Our own past increase from 70,000 to 264,000 children of school age, in nine years, is wonderful. The increase in Indiana from 1850 to 1856, a period of six years, was 158,000; in Illinois, from 47,895 in 1831, to 646,346 in 1856, a period of twenty-five years—an increase of about 600,000; in Ohio, from 146,440 in 1837, to 838,037 in 1857—an increase in twenty years of almost 700,000; in New York, from 449,113 in 1829, to 1,224,127, in 1854—an increase, in a period of twenty-five years, of 775,000. But, it may be said, that those are all large States. So they are, but ours is larger than three out of the four ; for while Indiana has an area of 34,000 square miles, Ohio 40,000, New York 46,000, and Illinois 55,000, Wisconsin has an area of 54,000—with soil, health, timber, and minerals unsurpassed by either of her sister States. We have, then, all the facilities for growth and expansion that are possessed by any of the sisterhood of States, and may, as confidently as they, count on a large increase of population.
It seems to me quite certain, that the time is not far distant,
in consequence of the rapid increase of children in our State, when the annual apportionment of school money per scholar must begin to decrease, and continue to do so as long as our population increases in a greater ratio than the School Fund.Indeed, it will be seen by referring to the table, that in 1855, the apportionment attained its highest per centage to the scholar, being 80 1-2 cents ; since which it has gradually decreased, thé next year being only 70 cents, the year after 66 cents—while this year it rallied å little, and reached 75 cents, in consequence of the immense School and Swamp Land sales last year. The next apportionment, as already indicated, will probably not exceed 72 cents. Supposing by the most judicious management, and by the most fortunate success in augmenting the School Fund, we should have in 1889, thirty years hence, five millions of dollars, and a million of children among whom to apportion the accruing interest, we should then have, not eighty and a half cents per scholar as we had in 1855, nor seventy-five cents as this year, but only thirty-five cents to a scholar to apportion; and fifty years hence but twenty-three cents. The less the amount apportioned per scholar, of course in the same proportion will the local school tax be lessened, as a great many of the towns barely raise a sufficient tax (one half of the amount of the previous apportionment) to entitle them to share in the School Fund distribution. It is not pleasant thus to dwell on a prospect so gloomy.
These facts—and to me they seem like stubborn facts, that cannot be successfully gainsayed, should admonish every faithful public servant of Wisconsin, who shares in the solemn responsibility of legislating for, and managing the School Fund, to act with uncommon caution, and ponder well before taking any step calculated to diminish the School Fund -a fund consecrated to the holiest of purposes.
With these facts before me, I cannot but lament the unwise policy of the last Legislature—against which I respectfully but earnestly protested—in diverting from the School Fund twentyfive per cent. of the net proceeds of_the sale of the Swamp Lands, and adding it to the Drainage Fund. This latter Fund as originally constituted, embraced twenty-five per cent. of the net proceeds of the Swamp Lands, and is already becoming a large fund—large for the purpose which it is designed to accomplish—an object, let it be borne in mind, which cannot be as perpetual as the unceasing and increasing Wants of education.One-fourth of the Swamp Land Fund, cannot, as I have already estimated, be less than $881,970 09, and it may exceed a million ; and it would yield from sixty to eighty thousand dollars annually for distribution among the favored counties entitled to share in its bounty. This, if judiciously expended, would, in the course of fifteen or twenty years, amount to a million of dollars, and in thirty or forty years to two millions, for drainage purposes alone, without encroaching one particle on the principal. Ought not the counties more especially interested in drainage, to be satisfied with a fund which promises to yield so large a revenue, and generously restore the other twenty-five per cent. to the School Fund, from which it was taken, and where it rightfully belongs, to aid in educating their children for all coming time?
The fact should not be overlooked, that in the greater part of our State the pioneer settlers made their roads and bridges, cleared up and drained their swamps, with no Drainage Fund to aid them; and they did it too, during an early period, amid untold poverty, self-denial and hardships, in paving the way for later and more fortunate adventurers—oftentimes going from fifty to one hundred miles to mill with a single grist ; at other times taking their wheat to Milwaukee to market, spending a week or more in the effort, and not realizing as much for a whole load as would pay the expenses of the trip. This class of early settlers, who, under God, have made Wisconsin what it is to-day, claim, as they have a just right to claim, the early restoration of the twenty-five per cent. net proceeds derived from the Swamp Lands, to the School Fund, and there be left forever untouched, so that their children and children's children may enjoy its common benefits to the latest generation. Is this unreasonable—is it asking too much, while a sufficient fund, properly husbanded, is still left for all needful drainage purposes for the newer portions of the State ?
Whoever attempts to divert any portion of our sacred School Fund from its consecrated purposes of education, should feel that he is treading on holy ground. That noble Fund is the hope of our people—the only hope of two hundred and sixtyfour thousand children now living in our midst, and of millions yet unborn. They crave the boon of education, which is their chief, as well as best, inheritance; and for that education they must ever mainly rely upon the People's Colleges, the Common Schools of our State. Those children need a fit preparation, for they must soon wield the destinies of Wisconsin. Every dollar abstracted from the School Fund, under whatever plea, will yet have to be replaced with more than compound interest, or ignorance, vice and crime will be the penalty of our children, and our children's children will have to suffer as the natural con. sequence of our misguided folly.
I would respectfully urge the restoration of twenty-five per cent. of the net proceeds of the sales of Swamp Lands, from the Drainage to the School Fund; or that it be set apart for a School Library Fund ; or, if this be not judged best, that so soon as the income of the Drainage Fund, as at present constituted, reaches the sum of sixty thousand dollars annually, all the surplus ever after be added to the School Fund income, or to & School Library Fund, as the Legislature may direct. The twenty-five per cent. of the Swamp Land proceeds transferred by act of the last Legislature from the School to the Drainage Fund, already amounts to $261,598 54 ; and it will one day reach from eight hundred thousand to a million of dollars. If it could now be restored to the holy and perpetual purposes of education, no harm or injury would occur to the counties intended to be benefitted by drainage, for no plans are yet formed, or contracts entered into ; and the original Drainage Fund will prove abundantly ample for the object in view.
If I have urged this matter with seeming pertinacity, I may plead in justification the sentiment of LA FAYETTE in the Assembly of French Notables in 1787 :-“We are summoned,” he exclaimed, “to make the truth known-I must discharge my duty:" Having, in the language of the Constitution, “ the supervision of public instruction," and being required by law to submit to the Legislature “plans for the improvement and management of the Common School Fund,” I should feel that I had unworthily shrunk from the performance of a solemn trust, had I neglected to bring this matter fully and fairly before you.Having discharged this duty, I must leave the responsibility of the result where it justly belongs—with the representatives of the people. While other States are anxiously seeking how they may augment their School Funds, which experience is proving to be quite too inadequate for the vast mission they are expected to fulfil, we should suffer no opportunity to pass, by which we might hope to improve ours. Legislation can find no nobler object of attention than to wisely provide for the best education of the hundreds of thousands of children now in our midst, and the millions yet to follow; for if we do this faithfully, we may rest our heads quietly upon our dying pillows, with the confident assurance, that, in this particular, we have conscientiously done our part for the future moral and intellectnal well-being of the State, and the permanency of our free institutions.
SCHOOL FUNDS OF THE NEW STATES. While speaking of our own School Fund, it may be interesting to recur to the School Funds, in the aggregate, of the new States generally, that we may see at a single glance with what provident forecast the General Government has treated the