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tion by the people”-i.l., the embalming of ordinary statutes in the organic law of the community—the details of schoolfinance policy in these new western commonwealths seem practically determined for some years to come. Amendments to State constitutions are not easily or hastily obtained, and perhaps there is really more danger that in future such measures as may be required in the interest of the school fund and its preservation, will be delayed in adoption, than that injudicious meddling or tinkering will ever be tolerated.
A law of the last Nebraska legislature submits to popular vote an amendment to the constitution providing that the educational funds of the State may be invested or loaned on registered school district bonds, or first mortgages on improved land.
Most of the States which have had legislative sessions during the past winter, have given their formal assent to the terms and conditions of the act of Congress of August 30, 1890, for the more complete endowment of State agricultural colleges. Each State receives under this act $15,000 the first year, $16,000 the second, and so on for ten years. After that, the annual amount will be $25,000.
In addition to the proceeds of land sales, there are other sources of increment to the permanent school funds of many States, Thus Oregon (closely followed by Washington) devotes to this purpose all moneys which may accrue to the State by escheat and forfeiture, all which may be paid as exemption from military duty, and the proceeds of all property granted to the State when the purpose of the grant is not stated. Besides the ordinary expenses of school support and maintenance, the interest of this irreducible fund may hereafter be applied to the purchase of school libraries and apparatus. (Oregon statute of 1891.)
Wisconsin has already set apart a considerable portion of her share in the direct tax refund (act of Congress, March 3, 1891), to be added to her school and normal school funds. This will doubtless be the course pursued by many of the States.
In the matter of school taxation a new departure has just been made by Vermont, where a law was passed, last year, levying a permanent State tax of five per cent, on all ratable property, for school purposes. (“Ratable property," in Vermont, means one per cent, of the actual valuation, so that this school tax is equivalent to a half
mill tax.) Previous to 1890, Vermont had no State system of taxation for school purposes. All the school moneys were raised and disbursed by the towns. The State superintendent of education, in his last report, recommended the adoption of a State tax, mainly on the ground that it would equalize the burdens of school expenses throughout the country districts. Under the old system, it was alleged that at least one-third of the people of the State, living in the less populous districts, were compelled to pay a much larger proportionate tax than the other two-thirds, for equivalent advantages.
Among the Southern States, Alabama has just taken an important step in the administration of her school moneys. Henceforth the apportionment of the State fund to districts is to be made without regard to race, but with sole reference to the “equal benefit of the children thereof between the ages of seven and twenty-one years." The State superintendent of education is required to apportion the fund to the townships and school districts according to the entire number of children of school age. The county superintendent, as soon as he receives the apportionment to his county, shall notify the trustees of each township or district of their several proportions. (Township trustees, in Alabama, have supervisory powers similar to those of the town superintendent in New England.)
Throughout the South, appropriations for education are steadily increasing. The funds, as a rule, seem to be wisely and carefully handled.
The systems enacted into law in several of the new States are, in general, elaborations of old and long-tried plans, as de
veloped in such States as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. The several schemes of State, county, and district supervision are each carefully defined and set in operation. North Dakota and Washington passed general laws for this purpose in 1890, and South Dakota in March of the present year. Wyoming made no changes in her school laws on becoming a State. The writer is not informed as to what action, if any, has been taken by Idaho and Montana since their admission.
Rarely has the question of school supervision roused so much interest in any State as during the past three years in Vermont. In 1888 a school law, which had been prepared with great care by leading educators of the State, was passed by the Legislature and approved by the governor. In place of the old system of township supervision, this new law provided for the organization of county boards and the election of county supervisors. County supervision (not precisely in the form introduced in Vermont) has been adopted, as is well known, in most of the States. The Green Mountain State, however, after a two years' trial, determined to go back to her former methods, and the Legislature of 1890 abolished the county system. The details of the township system are now practically as they were before the change of 1888 was attempted. The State superintendent, in his report for 1890, made before the Legislature met, did not speak with unqualified approval of the practical workings of the experiment of 1888, but urged that time was needed to fairly test its merits. Apart from this change, most of the important features of the new law were permitted to remain untouched.
Two years ago, important laws relating to school attendance were passed by at least four States. At the time, there was not much general discussion of either of these. Probably the Ohio law attracted most attention. Indeed it was considered by the State commissioner of public schools the most important educational legislation of his State for a quarter of a
century. Its important provisions may be summarized as follows: Parents or guardians must instruct children, or cause them to be instructed, in spelling, reading, writing, English grammar, geography, and arithmetic. Children between the ages of eight and fourteen years must attend a public or private school for a period of not less than twenty weeks in city districts each year, ten weeks of which shall be consecutive ; and in village and township districts not less than sixteen weeks of each year, eight of which shall be consecutive. The child is exempted from such attendance when its physical or mental condition is such as to make attendance impracticable, or when it is taught at home, by qualified persons, in such branches as are usually taught in primary schools. It is made unlawful to employ children under fourteen while the public schools are in session, unless they have complied with the requirements, or are exempt. Minors over fourteen and under sixteen, who cannot read and write English, are required to attend a public day school at least one-half of each day, or an evening school, or to take private instruction, until they obtain certificates that they can read at sight, and write legibly simple sentences in English. Employers are required to exact such attendance from minors in their employ. The enforcement of this law is intrusted to truant officers, who are vested with police powers. The act may be suspended, temporarily, in the case of children under fourteen, wholly or partially dependent on their own labor for a living, or wliose labor is necessary to the support of others unable to provide for themselves. In 1890, a requirement was added, that all youths between eight and sixteen, not regularly employed, should attend school for the full term each year.
This Ohio act of 1889 has been summarized here, rather for the purpose of exhibiting the general character of most recent laws on the subject, than because of any specially noteworthy features or any striking originality. The principles have long been embodied in the Massachusetts and other statutes. The Ohio law, in most of its details, may be taken as a type of the latest American legislation on compulsory education, North
Dakota in 1890 and South Dakota in 1891 passed similar laws, requiring, however, only twelve weeks' attendance. A like regulation in Washington will probably be wholly ineffective because of the absence of any provision for enforcement.
The Wisconsin and Illinois laws of 1889 have already received full and able treatment in the pages of this REVIEW. It is only necessary to state here that the principle of compulsory education, per se, was not attacked in the political campaigns of last autumn. The only part of the Bennett law, or of the companion measure in Illinois, that was under fire at all, was the clause declaring that no school should be regarded as a school under the act, in which were not tauglit reading, writing, arithmetic, and United States history, in the English language. Even this part of the law was not new. The Massachusetts act of 1877 contained essentially the same require. ment as to private schools. The Bennett law has now been repealed. The condition of Wisconsin now, as regards compulsory education, is about what it was for ten years under the old law—which was never enforced in those districts where it was most needed. Attendance is now required, for twelve weeks in the year, of children between the ages of seven and thirteen.
One provision of the compulsory law of Colorado is unique. Needy children are not only to be provided with books, but clothed as well. This step seems to nullify the last excuse for ignorance in this progressive Western State,
Massachusetts last year amended her compulsory law, extending the period of required attendance each year from twenty to thirty weeks. This far exceeds the minimum set in other States.
Most of the important phases of State school-book legislation have been recently discussed in another periodical. It remains for me merely to note a few changes of the past
I See EDUCATIONAL REVIEW, I : 48.