This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
So brief are the financial statements contained in the annual reports that it is difficult to draw conclusions concerning the effect of the state subvention upon the finances of the institution. During the three years 1827 to 1829 inclusive while building was going on, the state contributed about 22 per cent of all receipts, loans excluded and the city and county of Philadelphia contributed 33 per cent. Subscriptions and donations from individuals made up the remainder. *45 During the years 1835 to 1844 the amount contributed by the state remained at $5,000 annually. Since the total receipts of the institution increased about 50 per cent during these years, the proportion paid by the state declined from 34 per cent in the former year to 23 per cent in the latter. The amount contributed by Philadelphia increased from $5,000 to $9,000 or from 34 per cent to 42 per cent. The contributions of individuals varied greatly from year to year, while the income from permanent investments, though never large, increased slowly. Receipts from the labor of the boys detained in the home declined as the institution became more educational and less penal in character. *46
As in the case of the institutions for the training of the blind and the deaf-mutes, the data that are now extant do not permit drawing definite conclusions as to the effect of the subvention upon individual donations. It is possible to state, however, that the amount contributed by individuals was proportionately more important during the years when the home was beginning than it was from 1835 to 1844. *47 But the contributions of individuals would naturally be larger during those years when the corporation was greatly in need of funds for building purposes. On the whole, there is no evidence to show that contributions on the part of the state discouraged individual interest.
45 House of Refuge, Report (1830), Treasurer's Statement.
46 From the Annual Reports of the House of Refuge, 1835 to 1844. Chiefly from the summary statement of the treasurer of the corporation. In several instances the data given by the treasurer are at variance with the statements of the Auditor General of the state with reference to the amount of the subvention paid in given years.
The reasons for state participation seem not to have been those which have been so potent in bringing about subventions to common schools in recent years. There was no mention of the effect of such contributions upon the equalization of tax burdens. Nor is there evidence to show that the state provided a subvention for the purpose of obtaining a voice in the government of the institution. In fact, the indications are that no such reason was entertained, since only the mildest sort of supervision was imposed.
It is fairly clear that the state assisted the schools for the blind and the deaf-mutes, and the home for wayward children because all three were new departures in the matter of charitable relief, and because all three were performing services that commanded public approval. The subventions were small and no elaborate reasons in addition to those just advanced were necessary to justify the appropriations. It may be asked at this point why the state did not establish the institutions and take full charge of the services they provided. Several considerations prevented such action. In the first place the teaching of the blind was at that time still in the experimental stage, and a wider range of experimentation was possible in a private than in a public institution. As a rule it is not advisable for the state to take over a branch of charitable relief until at least tentative standards have been established in private institutions. A further reason for the failure of the state to develop institutions is that such action would probably not have been supported by the people of the state. Free common schools and state asylums for the insane both came later.
It should also be pointed out that all the grants to charity during this period were only slightly controlled; some were conditional, while others were almost in the nature of unrestricted gifts. In the case of the schools for defectives, the annual grant was limited in amount and the appropriation was based upon the quantity (number of indigent children received) of service rendered the public. Finally, the establishment of these subventions cannot be regarded as the result of a definite policy on the part of the state. Their growth was more or less accidental, the result of a number of minor influences, and not the product of a definite plan to commit the state either to the continuance or to the enlargement of its appropriations.