This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
The first local service to receive aid from the state treasury, during this period, was that of charitable relief. But it must not be supposed that the state contributed to the support of common paupers. The charities first aided were those that were engaged in assisting special classes of indigents. The education of the children of poor parents in Pennsylvania, during the colonial and early state history was generally looked upon as a form of poor relief. The constitution of 1790 required the legislature to provide schools wherein the "poor may be taught gratis"; and the law of 1809 and its amendments placed such education as was provided in the category of charitable assistance. The child who attended local schools and had his tuition paid in accordance with such laws was as much a recipient of poor relief in the eyes of the law as was the indigent who sought aid of the directors of the poor. At no time did the state offer direct assistance to the localities in the education of the poor under this system, and an examination of the policy pursued under it, finds no place in a discussion of subventions. When the state first undertook to aid the localities in the provision of free education, one of the modifications made in the existing system was the removal of the stigma of "poor relief" from the schools by opening them to all children of school age, rich and poor alike.
In order to present concretely the subject matter of this section and to limit the field of investigation, use will be made of a schematic classification of indigents requiring public assistance. Indigent persons may be classified as follows: *19
I. Indigent Defectives
1. Deaf mutes
2. The blind
3. The insane
4. The idiotic and feeble-minded
19 Adapted from a classification given by Henderson, Modern Methods of Charity, p. 396. Mr. Henderson did not include 1.8, but there is no good reason for including the inebriate and excluding the indigent who, because of some incurable disease has become a charge upon society, and who is now usually cared for in institutions adapted for the purpose. In the original, there are no sub-classes under III.
8. Other indigent persons incapacitated by illness
II. Neglected and abused children
III. Mentally and physically normal adults in extreme indigence
1. Those requiring occasional relief, chiefly outdoor relief
2. The inmates of almshouses
3. The aged poor
At the present time there is no clear line of demarcation between "education" and "charity" in the case of expenditures for teaching the blind and the deaf-mutes. If, as is commonly asserted, the state is under obligation to provide for industrial education in the larger cities— for the instruction of a special class in particular localities—it seems equally clear that it is also under obligation to provide special facilities for the training of those who happen to be without sight or the powers of hearing and speech. In both cases the principal argument for the establishment of special schools is that the class to be benefited cannot gain proper training in the general system of common schools and that without this training they will become inefficient members of society. The expenditures for the education of the blind and of the deaf-mutes might well be classed with payments for common schools at the present time.
When schools for these special classes were first established in Pennsylvania, all pupils whose parents could afford the expense were charged for tuition and maintenance; but the state, and charitably inclined individuals, undertook to provide for the education of those whose parents were unable to pay. Hence it seems better to treat subsidies for the support of such schools as payments for charity.
In Pennsylvania during this period the deaf and dumb and the blind were the only classes of indigents that consistently received assistance from the state. Public opinion had not progressed far enough to permit of the provision of free treatment for such classes as the indigent sick (common hospital cases) or consumptives. It must not be inferred, however, that no provision was made for taking care of other sorts of charity cases, such as the sick, orphans, the insane, and the adult blind and deaf and dumb. Sometimes they were taken care of by private institutions, and that failing they were, in practically all communities, herded together indiscriminately in the common almshouse.