This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
It is needless to observe that this was a very complex subvention. It was at once a subvention to a private corporation, an aid to teachers and students, and a military pension. The grant to students of fifty cents a week and $50 on completion of the course was more than sufficient to pay their tuition, so that we may say that the purpose of the state was to provide free tuition for prospective teachers. *81
81 Supt. of Common Schools, Report (1866), p. xix.
During the years 1867 to 1869, inclusive, the general policy developed between 1860 and 1866 held sway. Each normal school received within three to five years after organization, $15,000 for the reduction of its debt. The conditions uplon which the payment was made remained as in the law of 1866. As soon as schools were recognized the state provided assistance for such of their students as declared their intention of becoming teachers. In 1867 the colored race was provided for by an appropriation to the normal department of Lincoln University. *82 In Philadelphia, which had developed its school system almost independently of the rest of the state, a Teachers' Institute received recognition to the extent of $3,000 annually. In 1872 unconditional grants of $10,000 were made to each of three schools that had already received $15,000. The unfairness of singling out these three schools for especially liberal treatment was pointed out by the state superintendent, *83 but nothing was done by the legislature to remove the discrimination.
During the years 1869 to 1873 the General Assembly abandoned the sound policy previously adopted. Before that time care had been taken not to aid any school that did not have a sufficient capital or endowment to insure its successful establishment. But in 1869 the sum of $15,000 was given to the California Normal School in Washington County (10th. district) before the buildings were completed and before the institution had been approved by the superintendent. *84 The policy of waiting until the school should receive the recommendation having once been abandoned, other grants of a similar nature followed. *85
The grant to the Bloomsburg school shows the new practice of the legislature at its worse. The company had been granted $15,000 without taking the trouble to ascertain whether it could obtain sufficient additional funds to equip and to maintain a school. In 1872 the members of the General Assembly were approached for an additional $10,000 to save the institution from bankruptcy. This was granted on the supposition that the school would thereby be placed on a sound basis. But in 1873 the trustees came back with the astonishing assertion that, if the state did not come to their rescue, the property would probably be sold at sheriff's sale to satisfy a private debt. The legislature was urged to save the school for the benefit of the youth of the state and to prevent the loss of the $25,000 previously given. *86 It was brought out in debate in the legislature that in some instances, owing to loosely worded laws, the state had not taken a lien on the property of the schools subsidized to secure the repayment of the grant, *87 and was therefore without recourse if the school were sold on a judgment for debt.
82 Act 11 April, 1867, P.L. p. 9.
83 Report (1872), p. xix. The superintendent asserted that the most deserving schools, the older ones that had been of most assistance in training teachers, had been discriminated against.
84 Act 10 April, 1869 P.L. pp. 829-830.
85 Supt. of Common Schools, Report (1873), p. xix.
86 See the statement of Mr. Harry White in the Senate 21 March, 1873, Legislative Journal, p. 805, col. 1; also that of Mr. Butler B. Strong in the same body, idem, p. 805, col. 2.
The method by which these careless grants were engineered was very simple. Two forces were at work. "We all have pressing constituents here," said one senator, "trying to seduce senators into the support of the particular policy that will lift their school out of the mire. *88 The lobby of interested constituents had indeed enticed the representatives of the people, sworn to do their duty, from the straight and narrow path. It is not clear, however, how the voters in one normal school district could hypnotize a majority of the entire legislature. But even this was easy when once the right method was hit upon. When the question was asked why the officers of the other normal schools acquiesced in the appropriation of $10,000 additional to the favored three, the explanation was at once forthcoming. All the other schools supported the grant to these three on the condition that in the next session they should receive the same amount. *89 In a word, the ill-advised and uncontrolled grants were obtained by log-rolling, just as the grants to academies had been obtained a half-century earlier. That such should have been the case whenever the state undertook to aid privately owned institutions seems to have been inevitable in the history of Pennsylvania. Today the grants to private charitable institutions are obtained in the same manner.