This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
In 1824 the legislature passed a law "to provide more effectually for the education of the poor gratis, and for laying the foundation of a general system of education throughout the commonwealth." Local school boards were to be elected, whose duty it was to provide and to supervise schools for the poor. Section X of the act also permitted the citizens of the several townships, wards, and boroughs to decide by popular vote whether or not they would tax themselves for the education of all children between the ages of six and fourteen. Adoption of taxation was purely optional, and there was no attempt, so far as can now be ascertained, to coerce any community; furthermore, since each township, ward, or borough could decide for itself there was no possibility of the more populous and poorer sections of counties and cities taxing the richer communities. But the people were not then in a mood to accept a system that carried with it even permissive taxation; and the law "... met with violent oppositon, was repealed in 1826 and the law of 1809 restored. . . " *56
This law of 1824 had been the result of numerous committee reports and petitions to the legislature asking better provision for the education of the youth of the state. In 1822 a committee had reported at length, condemning alike the pauper schools established under the act of 1809 and the policy of the state in endowing numerous academies. *57 In 1824 Governor Shulze in addressing the legislature wrote, "I would respectfully suggest whether an annual sum, specially appropriated for that purpose [the endowment of educational institutions] would not in a few years raise a fund equal to the universal diffusion of the elements of education among the children of the republic. " *58 But this suggestion of a "fund" did not apparently meet with a favorable reception at the hands of the lawmakers, and no action was taken. Various voluntary organizations had, meanwhile, been agitating a more liberal provision for education at state expense. *59
In 1830 Governor Wolf suggested that the various counties be permitted to establish local permanent funds for the endowment of public elementary schools. He believed that a plan which should provide for the levy of a small additional county rate, the proceeds of which might be invested in the internal improvement stock of the state, would in a short time produce an annual revenue large enough to aid materially in establishing public schools. *60 But the legislature did not at that time act favorably upon the plan. The scheme was, nevertheless, very suggestive, combining as it did the permanent fund, which would obviate the necessity of heavy direct taxation, with a scheme for securing money for the construction of the canals.
56 Wickersham, p. 270. His statement is inexact, for the law of 1824 did not repeal the act of 1809; it merely superseded it in certain respects in those cases where the local unit chose to put the law of 1824 into effect.
57 Wickersham notes several other committee reports from 1822 to 1831, pp. 274-275.
58 Pennsylvania Archives, IV, Ser. V, p. 550.
59 Mathew Carey was of the opinion that these societies accomplished very little. See his Public Charities of Philadelphia, p. 33.
60 Pennsylvania Archives, IV Ser. V, p. 885.
In the following year (1831) the legislature established the "school fund. " *61 Section I of the act provided that all receipts from the land office, including land sales and fees, and all revenues accruing from the Act of March 25th, of the same year, which had increased the county rates and levies for the benefit of the state, should be set apart as a common-school fund. Section III required that all revenues accruing to the fund should be invested at 5 per cent compound interest until the principal of the fund was large enough to yield $100,000 annually, when, presumable, the annual income was to be used for the support of elementary education. In accordance with the provisions of other acts, the fund was to be invested in the internal improvement stock of the state. *62 In securing this legislation the advocates of better schools had cleverly taken advantage of the popularity of the internal improvement policy. Ostensibly the revenue that would accrue for the benefit of schools would not come out of the pockets of the taxpayers.
One of the strongest motives for the establishment of permanent school funds in all the states that provided such endowments was the desire to avoid heavy direct taxes, *63 and it was in the belief that the state could thus encourage education without taxing the people that the fund was established in Pennsylvania.
As a book account, the fund continued to grow during the following years, and even as early as 1833 Governor Wolf ventured to predict that, judging from the flattering indications already given by the public works, there was "reason to believe that, from the redundant and progressively increasing revenue which may [might] with great certainty be expected to flow into the treasury from that source [the works] much aid may [might] at no distant day, be derived" for the support of educational institutions. *64
61 Act 2 April, 1831, P.L. pp. 385-386.
62 Act 22 April, 1829, P.L. p. 254.
63 Swift, p. 165.
64 Pennsylvania Archives, IV Ser. VI, p. 125.