This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
After the disappearance of the first school fund, during the years 1840 to 1844, Pennsylvania made, until recently, no attempt to provide a permanent endowment for her common schools. In 1911, however, the legislature created a new fund. The proceeds of all water powers and water rights and of all real estate belonging to the commonwealth, together with all escheated estates and eighty per cent of the proceeds of the forest reservations make up the fund. All gifts and bequests from private individuals and moneys specially appropriated by the legislature are also to be included. *163
The amounts accruing to the fund are to be deposited in the state depositories (banks), but the State Board of Education is required to invest the accumulations promptly. Only the bonds of school districts or good municipal bonds may be utilized as investments by the board. *164 The board is also authorized to use as much of the income from the fund as it deems wise toward equalizing educational advantages of the different parts of the commonwealth, and also to use such part of the same as it deems wise to further and promote education in the conservation of natural resources, and education in forestry, agriculture and other industrial pursuits, in the public schools of the Commonwealth. *165
In view of the limited sources from which the fund is to be derived, one would say that the objects for which it may be expended are rather numerous. As yet the fund is unimportant and it seems unlikely that it will become a large factor in the finances of the school system in the near future. *166
In 1913 a new subvention was created for the purpose of encouraging vocational education in the public schools. Any school district is authorized to establish a separate school or department in which industrial education, household arts, or agriculture shall be taught by teachers approved by the State Board of Education. The board must also approve the courses of study, the location, equipment and methods of instructions of each school. *167
163 Sec. 2701, Act 18 May, 1911, P.L. p. 431.
164 Sec. 2703, Idem, p. 432.
165 Sec. 2704, Act 18 May, 1911, P.L. p. 432.
166 In 1915 the Supt. of Public Instruction stated that the State school fund amounted to over $175,000, Report (1915), p. 11.
167 Act 1 May, 1913, P.L. p. 138.
The amount of state aid paid approved schools or departments depends upon the cost of operation. The law provides that the state shall pay " an amount equal to two-thirds the sum which has been expended during the previous year by such school district, or districts" for the maintenance of vocational departments. But the maximum amount that any district may receive is limited to $5,000. *168
From the point of view of public finance the method of distributing this subvention is objectionable. To give a district two-thirds of the cost of the vocational departments without direct reference to the number of pupils in the school, or the quality of the instruction, is not in accordance with sound principles of public expenditure. On the other hand, of course, the state board has the power to approve or disapprove of the management of schools that receive state aid. It remains to be seen how effective this supervision will be. In 1913 the legislature appropriated $232,000 for the assistance of the vocational departments, *169 and during the school year 1913-14, twenty-one districts qualified for state aid. *170 But the scheme has been in operation too short a time to permit of any judgment as to its success.
Summary and Conclusions: Subventions for Education A survey of the history of state subventions for education from 1874 to 1915 shows, in the first place, that the state has made no attempt to systematize the grants. No consideration has ever been given, as far as can be discovered, to the relation of the various subsidized services to each other. But the causes of this neglect are to be found in the educational "system" as well as in the appropriation policy of the legislature. As long as the state does not itself administer, or closely control a complete system of schools beginning with the elementary common school and culminating in a state university, and at the same time embracing vocational schools and training schools for teachers, it will be difficult to systematize the grants for education. In 1916 the common schools, the high schools, the vocational schools *171 and some of the normal schools were under the complete control of the public authorities. The majority of the normal schools and the State College are, however, only partially controlled, while the universities that receive large appropriations are entirely free from state supervision, except insofar as their charters are concerned. Under such conditions it is obviously impossible for the state to make its appropriations for education according to a systematic, long-time policy.
168 Act 1 May, 1913, P.L. p. 138.
169 Act 25 July, 1913, P.L. p. 1249. The governor reduced this amount to $135,000.
170 Supt. of Public Instruction, Report (1914), p. 7.
171 The term is used in its widest sense.