This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
It may be asked whether there was any justification for the demand for higher wages for teachers. This question the superintendent answered by pointing out that a majority of the teachers were not well enough equipped to serve the schools efficiently. And, in his opinion, the salaries commonly paid were too low to induce the typical school teacher to secure better general education or better professional training. *74 The latter opinion cannot, of course, be conclusively proved, but, in view of the fact that many teachers were paid less than twenty-five dollars a month, it cannot, on the other hand, be far from correct. *75
74 Report (1893), p. viii, et passim.
75 Thus in Fulton County, in 1895, the average monthly wage of the 32 women teachers employed was $20.61. Supt. of Public Instruction, Report (1895), p. 396. In Wyoming County, the average for 89 women teachers was $22.19. Of the thirty districts in that county but ten paid an average wage in excess of $25.00 to women. Idem, pp. 572-573.
That the great body of teachers was not well trained is shown by the fact that more than one-third of the total number employed within the state had attended only the common elementary schools. *76 Over one-half held certificates of the lowest grade, and less than one-fourth were graduates of colleges, normal schools, academies, or seminaries.77
Insofar as the subvention was used to reduce taxes, the school officers were merely acting in accordance with the spirit of the terms of the compromise which was implicit in the revenue legislation of 1887 to 1893. *78 The additional subventions were made for the relief of the local taxpayer, and, therefore, the local authorities could not be blamed because they used them for that purpose. So, too, no evidence was presented by the state superintendent to show that the portion of the additional state aid which was used to pay off debts or to improve school buildings was unwisely expended.
On the other hand, there is evidence to show that the extra state money which came to many districts during the years 1889 to 1896 was extravagantly, or even dishonestly disbursed. The following quotation from the annual report of the superintendent for 1896 explains in somewhat lurid language the different ways in which the money was expended: "No sooner was our school appropriation raised to five million dollars than the sharks began to scent prey from afar. First came the agent with charts for teaching physiology, which were sold at high figures so as to permit, when necessary, the payment of large commissions to sub-agents and liberal fees to directors' sons for delivering the same to the various school houses in the district. . . . Next came the block man selling lumber at fancy prices in the shape of geometrical forms, which the skillful teacher constructs out of paper in so far as she needs them in the elementary school. Finally came the map man selling relief maps at one hundred dollars per set. *79 Of course, the superintendent did not pretend that all this equipment was worthless. It was, however, frequently neither well designed, nor well adapted for use in the elementary schools. In nearly every case the prices paid were too high. And, finally, such equipment was not a substitute for good teachers, which many of the districts lacked. *80
76 Supt. of Public Instruction, Report (1893), p. viii.
78 See Chapter VI, p. 150. 79 Report (1896), pp. xix-xx. 80 Ibid.
During the years following 1894, the average wages of teachers increased slowly but no substantial advance is shown until, in 1903, the legislature intervened with a minimum salary law. The trend of wages is shown in the following table:
1 Supt. of Public Instruction, Report (1916), p. 650. The data of this table are open to the common objection to the use of the arithmetic average for wage comparisons. The figures are given as found in the Report. It is not probable that the data are accurate enough to warrant conclusions based upon small differences, but they are sufficiently reliable for very rough generalizations.