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The County Superintendents of Schools in attendance at the State Teachers' Institute, met at one o'clock, P. M., on Wednesday, May sixth, in the committee room at Platt's Hall, and organized into a Convention by electing, on motion of Mr. Swett, State Superintendent, Rev. A. Higbie, of Napa, to pre. side.
The following gentlemen were present:
REV. A. HIGBIE ....................................... County Superintendent, Napa County. Rev. B, N, SEYMOUR........... ................... County Superintendent, Alameda County. S. 8. WILES....................................... County Superintendent, Santa Clara County. J. A. CHITTENDEN.....................................County Superintendent, Nevaus
.................... County Superintendent, Nevada County. S. B. OSBOURN....................... .................... County Superintendent, Butte County, W. C. CROOK ..........................................County superint
................... County Superintendent, San Mateo County. J. W. HINES..................... ....................... County Superintendent, Solano County, D. S. WOODRUFF......
.......County Superintendent, Contra Costa County. J. E. STEVENS............................................County Superintendent, Sutter County. C. 8. PEASE........
..... County Superintendent, Tuolumne County. RobT. THOMPSON ................................ ... County Superintendent, Calaveras County.
Amos Bowman was appointed Secretary.
Mr. Swett said his object in calling this meeting was to have the County Superintendents take into consideration matters calling for some unity of action during the coming year. He had not had a moment's leisure during the past three days, and could now only refer, therefore, to what he would otherwise have presented in more proper shape. There were many subjects on wbich be would like very much to hear the opinions of the County Superintendents, who had been so long engaged in the service as most of those present. Just entering into the
duties of the position to which he had been chosen, he was not very familiar with the details of the duties of County Superintendents; neither did he know much of the practical working's of the School Law outside of the city, and the needs and interests of Schools and Superintendents in the interior. His experience heretofore had been limited to a knowledge of the law and Schools in San Francisco. However, he went to work with the committee in revising the law, which, as it passed the Legislature, he was convinced would be an improvement on the old law. Each provision was adopted only after full consideration and discussion, and after the law had been referred, section by section, to a lawyer well versed in the subject of School Laws. He would now like to hear suggestions from the County Superintendents in regard to what should be done during the coming year. One important matter had been presented in the first lecture—the agitation of the question of a direct tax for the support of State Schools, and providing a Fund in addition to the present School Fund. Another matter was in regard to the calling of County Institutes, under the revised law. A liberal provision had been made, allowing the State Superintendent his travelling expenses, and it was his desire to visit all the County Institutes, when they were not called at the same time. His practical knowledge as a Teacher he should cheerfully use, and he was willing to give a year of hard and earnest work. All that he could do, in fact, to second them in this direction should be done. He thought at this Institute a great deal would be done for a State tax. If they, who were personally interested, did not move in the matter, members of the Legislature could not be expected to take it up. The movement must start among the people.
Mr. Seymour said the suggestions seemed to him of very great importance. One was in reference to the raising of a State tax. It really seemed to him that our Public School system hardly, at present, amounted to a Public School system. In many of the districts, they had not received money enough to keep the Schools open throughout the year. It was not, really, a Public School system; it did not give a sufficient sum to sustain the Schools three months in the year. They hired poor Teachers; put them into a miserable old shanty not fit for a pig pen, and eked out a small amount by rate bills; and then, generally, some few in the district, with large families, were obliged to bear the whole expense. If by any possibility a direct State tax could
be established, the results, he urged, would be most beneficial. Any one could see that there was a very large proportion of the wealth of this State which would never be touched by rate bills for the support of Schools. Indeed, the principal part of the wealth of the State never felt the rate bill. Families in this State, as a rule, he had found were poor; whilst old bachelors, and widowers, and men whose families were at the East, were the men who gathered up the money; and they were the men, too, who ought to educate the children of the State. If any one had a plan to move, he would second it with all his heart. The State was said to be burdened with taxes; so it would be as long as we had no State tax for the support of Common Schools, and we should have an enormous State tax to support San Quentin. As one goes up, the other goes down. If we ever expected to have a School system worthy of the name, we must do more than we were at present doing as a State.
Mr. Wiles said he heartily indorsed what had been said. Under the old law moneys were apportioned according to the number of children returned in each district, giving in some counties about two dollars to each child attending School, and in others as high as eighteen dollars. This was from the fact that not more than a third of the children returned in some counties, and not more than one in seventeen in others, attended School. He suggested that the money should be apportioned according to the average attendance upon the Schools, which would give an equal support to every School in the State. The effect of the other system would be to make the Trustees alive at once to the importance of securing the largest attendance, and there was some inducement for establishing new Schools where they might receive a good support; whereas, under the old system, it would only divide the money.
Mr. Swett said the whole subject was before the Committees of Education of the Legislature, and they refused to give it any consideration, on the ground that it would not be as fair as the present method of apportionment, and that it would lead inevi. tably to constant subdivision of districts; furthermore, that very few of the States in the Union apportioned on that basis.
Mr. Hines said he would like to have an expression given on the subject.
Mr. Chittenden said there were serious objections to making any efforts at the present time for an increase of the State tax. The law allowed the County Supervisors to levy a tax in each county of twenty-five cents on the one hundred dollars, and in some counties they had not come up to that. When he commenced his work as County Superintendent of Nevada, it was only five cents in that county. Last year it was doubled, making ten cents, and this year doubled again, making it twenty cents. The State tax this year was very high; the county tax in his county was very bigh; and if the law allowed them to levy an indefinite amount, they certainly could not get up much. higher. He did not see what the difference was, whether the tax was laid by the State or by the county, except, perhaps, that the Supervisors in different counties took very different views of these things, some of them certainly not very enlightened views. He believed that the Public Funds might be managed in a way to effect more than was usually done. It was the custom in some districts to use their public money as far as it would go—from three to six months—and then to suspend Public School. It was Free School for that time. He had recommended the Trustees in his county not to dispose of the funds in that way, but to make a charge to the scholars at the outset. These charges varied in different districts, according to the amount of public money, and the time they wished to continue their Schools. The charges in Nevada were generally from one dollar and thirty cents a month to two dollars; and with such charges they were enabled to keep up what would otherwise be a three month's School for five or six months. If that course were adopted he thought no increased tax would be necessary.
Mr. Stevens was in favor of a State tax for the support of the Schools of the State, and, above all things, in favor of Free Schools. He did not call a School free when it was partly supported by rate bills. To a great many children, especially in the rural districts, it was no School at all. If any money was to be paid, either from the avarice of parents, or some other cause, in practical operation the children were debarred from the privileges of education; and if every School adopted that regulation, children would remain uneducated until the State took the matter in hand, by enacting penal laws for keeping children away from School. He had urged the matter of a State tax at home wherever he could find a man to listen to bim; he had told people the honest convictions of his heart -that until the Public Schools, where our sons and daughters. are to be educated, were free, thoroughly and practically free,