This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
After the fall in the purchasing power of money began to reduce the real wages of teachers the demands of the state superintendent that salaries be increased became more insistent. In 1902 he advised the legislature that the substantially higher wages, which the teachers deserved, would come only through state action. In justification of his recommendation that a minimum salary law be enacted he pointed out that many of the most beneficial reforms of the school system had been forced on the districts by state-wide laws. In his opinion, "The law has [had] always been a schoolmaster in Pennsylvania. " *81
In 1903 a bill was introduced in the legislature to require districts to pay their teachers a minimum salary. During the debate on the bill in the Senate numerous objections to the measure were advanced. One member protested that such a law would violate the established principle of home rule in local affairs. *82 Another opposed the measure because he believed that a law regulating wages would establish a dangerous precedent. *83 It was also asserted that the farming communities were unable to pay higher salaries, and that from one hundred to two hundred districts would be compelled to discontinue their schools.84
Arguments in favor of the bill were few in number but forceful. It was commonly asserted and generally admitted that the salary scale in country districts was often too low to attract competent teachers. Furthermore, it was not denied by the most determined opponents of the measure that many districts received from the subvention the major part of their salary budgets. The reports from the county superintendents for 1888 show that in no county did the total amount received by the districts from the subvention exceed 30 per cent of the salary budget. *85 In 1894, however, in all but twelve counties the state subvention exceeded 50 per cent of the salary budget, and in fourteen counties it exceeded 70 per cent. In two counties it exceeded 95 per cent. *86 Such were the facts for the year 1894, and conditions were not much different during the first half of the decade 1900 to 1910.87
In spite of the objections raised by the rural districts the bill became a law. This law required districts to pay at least thirty-five dollars a month to all teachers regularly employed. *88 Boards of directors or controllers were required to report under oath whether they had complied with the provisions of the act, *89 and if any district failed to observe the requirements of the law it thereby forfeited its share in the state appropriation for the year in which its non-compliance occurred.90 The effect of this law is quite apparent from the data given in the table on page 176.
81 Report (1902), p. vii.
82 Mr. Focht, 1 April, 1903, Legislative Record, p 2605, col. 2.
83 Mr. Sisson, idem, p. 2607, col. 2.
84 Mr. Cummings, idem, p. 2604.
85 Supt. of Public Instruction, Report (1888), Tabular Statement of Counties for the School Year ending June 4, 1888, pp. 186-193. These data are for the districts of each county taken as a unit.
86 Idem, Report (1894), Tabular Statement of Counties, for the School Year ending June 4, 1894, pp. 524-531.
87 See a statement by Mr. Young, in the Senate, 1 May, 1907, Legislative Record, p. 3804, col. 2.
88 Sec. 1, Act 9 April, 1903, P.L. p. 162.
In 1907, when the annual state appropriation for common schools was increased to over $6,000,000, *91 another minimum salary act was passed to insure that the funds would be used to increase the efficiency of the schools. By this law the districts were required to pay $50.00 a month to all teachers who held professional or permanent certificates, and who had, in addition, received from county or district superintendents a certificate of proficiency, which was based on two years' successful teaching. The minimum wage for all other teachers was increased to $40.00 a month.92
As in 1903, the representatives of some of the rural communities objected to imposing on the poorer districts the additional expense that would result from the payment of higher salaries. *93 Objections from this source were, however, overcome by providing that the state should pay any additional expense imposed on the districts by the new law. The amount necessary for this purpose was to be deducted from the total appropriation for common schools before it was apportioned to the districts, and the remainder was then to be distributed in the usual manner. *94 It was estimated that the additional aid thus provided for the poorer districts would amount to $856,000.95
89 Sec. 2, Act 9 April, 1903, P.L. p. 162.
90 Sec. 3, idem.
91 Sec. 8, Act 14 June, 1907, P.L. pp. 790-791. Section 8 of this act appropriated $15,000,000 for the support of education during the two years 1907-1909. After deducting the amounts voted for students in normal schools, for high schools, and for the salaries of county superintendents, the annual appropriation remaining for the common schools was $6,245,000. This was subject, however, to a number of minor deductions not enumerated in the appropriation bill.
92 Act 31 May, 1907, P.L. p. 336.
93 See statements of Mr. Snyder, Legislative Record, p. 3804, col. 3; of Mr. Hitchcock, idem, p. 3803, col. 2; and of Mr. Carrol, idem, p. 3805.
94 Sec. 3, Act 31 May, 1907, P.L. p. 336.
95 Supt. of Public Instruction, Report (1907), p. vii.