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Chapter XXII

Education. School Funds; Schools, &c.

§1. The proper object of government is to promote the welfare and happiness of its citizens. For this purpose, it must provide for making and properly administering laws to protect the people in the enjoyment of life and the fruits of their labor. But it should go further, and make express provision for improving the condition of the people, especially the less fortunate portions of them.


§2. The prosperity of a state or nation depends essentially upon the education of its citizens. This is seen by comparing the condition of the people of this country with the condition of the people of those countries where the benefits of education are not enjoyed. Ignorance tends to make men idle, vicious, and miserable. On the other hand, learning is not only a means of enjoyment in itself, but of improving the social condition of a people.

§3. Again, a free government is better adapted than any other to promote the welfare of a nation. But if the people are not properly educated, they are incapable of self-government. And as many persons are unable to pay for the tuition of their children, the safety of the government itself requires the establishment of a system of education, by which the great body of the people may be fitted to discharge their social and political duties. The states have accordingly instituted school systems for the instruction of children and youth of all classes at the public expense.

§4. In most of the states, the schools are supported only in part, in a few of them wholly, at the expense of the states. Some states have provided funds, the income of which is annually applied to this object. _Fund_ generally signifies the money or capital stock employed in carrying on trade or any other business operation. _State funds_ are the moneys and other property of the state which are set apart for paying the expenses of the government, or for the construction of canals, roads, and other public improvements. The interest of these funds, and the income from other sources, are called the _revenue_.

§5. In some states, school funds are created by appropriating the public lands, which are lands owned by the state as a body corporate. The proceeds of these lands, from sales or rents, constitute a part or the whole of the school fund, the interest of which is annually applied to the support of schools. If the income from the school fund is insufficient for this purpose, the deficiency may, as is done in some states, be supplied, in whole or in part, by taxation, or from the state treasury.

§6. Many of the new states have large school funds. At an early period, while most of the territory from which these states have been formed was yet the property of the United States, and uninhabited, Congress passed an act by which a particular section of land (number sixteen) in every township is reserved for the support of schools therein. By this act, one thirty-sixth part of the lands within each of these states has been thus appropriated, besides smaller portions granted for the benefit of a university in each state. These lands are in the charge of proper officers, who dispose of them, and apply the proceeds as the law directs.

§7. The school funds of many of the states have been largely increased by certain moneys received from the United States. In 1837, there had accumulated in the national treasury about thirty millions of dollars over and above what was needed for the support of the government. By an act of congress, this surplus revenue was distributed among the states then existing, to be kept by them until called for by congress. Although congress reserved the right to recall the money, it was presumed that it would never be demanded. That it never will be, is now almost certain. Many of the states have appropriated large portions of their respective shares for school purposes. From its having been said to be only _deposited_ with the states, this fund is sometimes called the _United States deposit fund_.

§8. School moneys coming from the state treasury, or state fund, are usually apportioned among the several towns of the state; and each town's share of such moneys, together with what may come to the town by taxation or from its school lands, is divided among the several districts according to the number of children between certain ages in each district, or in such other manner as may be directed by law. If the moneys thus received are insufficient to pay the wages of teachers, a rate bill is made out in each district for the deficiency, and collected from the persons whose children have been taught in the schools.

§9. The towns, or townships, are divided into districts of suitable size for schools, which are called _district schools_. From their being supported by a common fund, and designed for the common benefit, or from the lower or more common branches being taught in them, they are also called _common schools_. One or more _trustees_ or _directors_ are chosen in each district to manage its affairs; a _clerk_ to notify meetings and record the proceedings of the same; and a _collector_ to collect taxes for building and repairing school-houses, and all rate bills for the payment of teachers.

§10. The highest school officer is the _state superintendent of common schools_, or, as he is sometimes called, _superintendent of public instruction_. The superintendent collects information relating to the schools; the number of children residing in each district, and the number taught; the amount paid for tuition; the number of school-houses, and the amount yearly expended in erecting school-houses; and other matters concerning the operation and effects of the common school system. If there is no other officer whose duty it is, the superintendent also apportions the money arising from the state funds among the several counties. He reports to the legislature at every session the information he has collected, and suggests such improvements in the school system as he thinks ought to be made.

§11. There is in every county an officer who receives from the state superintendent the money apportioned to the county, and apportions the same among the towns; reports to the state superintendent the number of children in the county; and performs such other duties as the law requires. In some states, there is no such county officer; but the money is apportioned by the state superintendent among the towns; and the reports from the towns are made directly to the state superintendent.

§12. In the towns are officers whose duties are to examine teachers, visit schools, apportion the school moneys among the districts, and to collect the lists of the number of children in the several districts, with such other information as the law requires, and report the same to the county officer, or, if there is none, to the state superintendent. In some states, there is in each county an officer or a board of officers, for examining teachers, and performing certain other duties relating to the schools of the county.

§13. Academies and colleges also receive aid from the state, to a limited extent. A distinct fund is created in some states for their benefit; in others, they are aided by special appropriations from the state treasury.