This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
In 1889 the districts paid out $8.65 per child for teacher's wages.20 In 1916 the expenditure for the same purpose amounted to $20.58 per child. This increase was due chiefly to higher salaries, as is shown by the fact that the monthly wages of male teachers increased from $35.57, in 1889, to $67.17, in 1916, and those of female teachers from $29.76 to $49.89.21
As was the case during the years 1874 to 1888, the principal source of the revenue required to meet the payments for schools was the local tax on real and personal property. In 1889 the local levies amounted to $7,869,506 and in 1916 to $30,275,411. Rapid as was the expansion of local taxation it did not keep pace with the growth of the state appropriation, which jumped from $1,207,010, in 1889, to $4,039,766, in 1894, and to $6,254,507 in 1910. In 1916 it amounted to $6,227,963, or about five times as much as in 1889, while the total of local taxation was only approximately four times as large as in the earlier year. The growth of local taxation was, however, far more steady than that of the subvention, and the result was that the proportion of total expenditures paid by the state fluctuated greatly. It was 12.6 per cent of the total in 1889 and six years later 31.0 per cent. Thereafter it remained fairly constant for seven years, until 1902, when it began to decline, slowly, at first, and then more rapidly as new objects for state expenditure increased their demands. In 1916 the subvention for common schools contributed almost exactly the same proportion of the total expenditures as in 1889.
19 Supt. of Public Instruction, Report (1916), p. 650.
20 This figure is found by dividing the expenditure for teachers' wages by the average number of children attending school. The objections to this method are obvious, but no better basis for the calculation is to be had.
21 Supt. of Public Instruction, Report (1916), p. 650.
The figures of the Auditor General, which include payments to Philadelphia, show more completely the increase of the subvention. In 1889, the total of all payments to common schools, not including the salaries of county superintendents, amounted to $1,642,764. In 1916 they amounted to $6,653,348, but in 1914 and 1915 the ordinary subvention declined. *22 The growth of the subvention from 1889 to 1916 has been much more rapid than the increase of the number of pupils or the number of teachers. For several years previous to 1916, however, the legislature made appropriation for various educational purposes such as vocational or industrial schools, the amount of which was deducted from the total of the common school grant. The result has been that the regular work of the common schools has been deprived of a part of the support that would otherwise have come to it. The amount of the state appropriation for common schools was $7.39, per child in 1910 and in 1916 only $6.05. The growth of both the number of children and the number of teachers has been more rapid than that of appropriation.23
Causes for the Increase of the State Subventions from
1889 to 1916
The most fundamental reason for the greatly augmented payments for the support of public schools has been the growth of interest in education on the part of the tax-paying public; but this is a nation-wide phenomenon, and probably not more marked in its manifestation in Pennsylvania than in many other states. In nearly every community the people have demanded better qualified teachers and better school buildings. *24 Libraries and laboratories have been improved and better mechanical equipment of all kinds has been introduced. In addition, the scope of the public schools has been expanded tremendously. In Pennsylvania, where it was once a question whether a majority of the people would permit the establishment of elementary schools supported by taxation, high schools, vocational schools, and night classes for working people are now regarded as necessary parts of the public school system. As has been the case with nearly all other kinds of governmental activity, the existing service has been elaborated by introducing new departments and at the same time the work previously done has been performed more efficiently.
22 See Table III, Appendix.
23 Supt. of Public Instruction, Report (1915), p. 12.
24 Cf. Cubberley, School Funds and Their Apportionment, pp. 15-16.