This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
In 1901, an entirely new act was passed, which not only required the attendance of all children between the ages of eight and sixteen years, but also placed in the hands of the state superintendent a means by which compliance with the law might be enforced. He was empowered to withhold one-fourth of the state appropriation due any district whose officers neglected or refused to enforce this law. As in the act of 1895, the law permitted some exceptions and attendance at a private school was equivalent to attendance at the public schools.103
The School Code of 1911 provides that all children between the ages of eight and sixteen years shall attend a day school in which the " common English branches" are taught.104 The exceptions to the requirement include cases where children are prevented from attending school on account of "any mental, physical, or other urgent reasons. " *105 Children between the ages of fourteen and sixteen may be excused from attendance if they can "read and write intelligently" and are employed in a useful and lawful service. Enforcement of the law is intrusted to the local authorities, but the state superintendent is authorized to withhold all or any part of the state aid due a district whose officers refuse or neglect to enforce the law in a manner that meets with his approval.106
103 Act 11 July, 1901, P.L. pp. 658 ff.
104 Sec. 1414, Act 18 May, 1911, P.L. pp. 383 ff. Regular daily instruction in the English language by a private tutor is declared to fulfil the requirements of the act if such instruction is considered satisfactory by the county or district superintendent having jurisdiction.
105 Sec. 1415, idem, p. 384.
Another matter that has been made subject to state regulation in recent years is the sanitation of school buildings and grounds. The School Code of 1911 contains a number of sections dealing with this subject. The ultimate authority in determining whether the district officers comply with the law is the state superintendent. He is given the power to condemn as unfit for use, on account of insanitary or other improper conditions, any school building or school site. If the district fails to remedy the conditions deemed improper, he may withhold all or a part of the district's share in the annual state appropriation.107
There is some evidence to show that the State Board of Education is active in calling the attention of the localities to insanitary or undesirable conditions existing in or about school buildings. In 1914 the state superintendent reported that pressure from the board had caused a number of districts to make needed improvements.108
No minimum requirement as to the rate of taxation that a district must levy for school purposes has been imposed, except in districts of the first class. Since this class includes only those districts having a population of 500,000 or over, the application of the law is obviously limited.109 The state has, on the other hand, been very careful to prescribe maximum rates. In districts of the first class the maximum is six mills on the dollar; in those of the second class (population 30,000 to 500,000) it is twenty mills, and in all other districts it is twenty-five mills.110
Audit of the accounts of the local school boards remains in charge of local officers. The state has, therefore, only an indirect audit of the accounting for funds appropriated by it for the support of the schools. Minor irregularities doubtless exist. But the practice of gross frauds, such as occurred previous to 1854, is no longer in evidence. The requirement of elaborate reports and the presence of the county and district superintendents seem to be effective checks upon the directors.
. There exists, of course, a large number of regulations in addition to those we have considered. They do not, however, directly concern the financial relations of the state to the school system nor is the subvention used as a means to enforce their observance by the districts.
106 Sec. 1431, Act 18 May, 1911, P.L. p. 389. 107 Sec. 1017, idem, P.L. pp. 360-361. 108 Report (1914), p. 3.
109 Districts of the first class must levy at least five mills on the dollar, but not over six mills. Sec. 524, Act 18 May, 1911, P.L. p. 337.