This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
Several points of importance stand out in the history of the state subvention to normal schools. The first and most significant is the failure of the state to secure adequate service from institutions over which it did not have complete control. Curricula and instruction were not entirely to the satisfaction of the educational officers of the state. Of course this does not mean that there was no cooperation between the state officials and the teaching force of the schools. The expressed or implied statements of the state superintendents indicate that the principals and teachers of the schools were usually willing to cooperate. But at times disagreements arose. Moreover, uniformity of standards could not be entirely brought about.
In the second place, the financial management of the schools seems to have been marked by improvidence and lack of foresight. Debts were increased when there was little prospect of making payment unless the state assumed the burden. In later years the increased demands upon the schools made extensions necessary, and, since additional aid from the stockholders was not forthcoming, it was necessary to borrow. Finally, for a variety of reasons, no equitable or rational scheme of distributing the state aid was discovered.
On the whole, we may say that the method of encouraging privately owned schools by grants from the state treasury was successful in establishing these schools at a time when they were badly needed. That it was as economical as direct state operation during the early period may be conceded. But on the other hand, it seems clear that at the present time no excuse exists for prolonging the operation of the schools under private ownership.
Training schools for teachers have, in recent years, been provided as a part of the school system of several Pennsylvania cities. Philadelphia has for many years provided special institutions for that purpose. The latter have received aid from the state, and whenever the amounts were separately recorded by the Auditor General they have been included in the total payments for normal schools in Table III, Appendix.
The subvention for the assistance of students in the normal schools who agreed to teach for a time in the common schools continued throughout the period 1874 to 1916. Practically no changes were made in the subvention until 1901, when the state agreed to pay the entire tuition of such students. Previous to that date they were assisted in two ways. First, a certain amount per week for each student was paid to the normal schools and the amount was then deducted from the tuition charged. Second, when a student had successfully completed the course and had been passed by the state board of examiners he received a grant of $50.
Certain objections to this grant are obvious. Although the student who received assistance by the payment of his tuition was required to agree to teach, it is doubtful whether the state ever undertook to enforce the agreement, for no record of any attempt to compel performance on the part of students who had broken the agreement has been discovered. Some of the students receiving assistance must, undoubtedly, have failed to secure positions and thus have been unable to carry out their part of the contract. The only cause for complaint against the system in case of failure of the student to teach was the fact that other students who could not or would not sign such agreement received no assistance.
The grant of $50 on graduation was usually a very welcome windfall for the impecunious student who had gone into debt to complete his education. But it is difficult to see why it should have been made. In some respects its effects were actually detrimental to the standards of the schools. The matter was fully explained by the state superintendent in 1901. "It [the law of 1901] forever abolishes the payment of fifty dollars as a fee on graduation, and removes the pressure on the State Board of Examiners to graduate students who spent the (sic) last cent in getting an education and who were counting on the graduation fee for aid in payment of their tuition. *149 The act of 1901 provided that the state should pay $1.50 per week for the tuition of each student who should agree to teach two years in the common school of Pennsylvania.150
149 Report (1901), p. iv.
150 Sec. 8, Act 18 July, 1901, P.L. p. 839.
Another interesting and significant point in the history of the state normal schools was the controversy over the interpretation of the restrictive clauses of the state constitution. Section 2 of Article X reads, " No money raised for the support of the public schools of this Commonwealth shall be appropriated to or used for the support of any sectarian school." Section 18 of Article III provides, "No appropriations, except for pensions or gratuities for military services, shall be made for charitable, educational, or benevolent purposes to any person or community, nor to any denominational or sectarian institution, corporation or association."
Previous to the adoption of the constitution of 1873 Lincoln University, an institution for members of the colored race, had received state aid as a normal school. In 1874 the General Assembly passed a law to recognize it as an additional state normal school, *151 and made an appropriation for its support.
In addition to its other departments Lincoln University maintained a theological school, in which the Presbyterian church had been given a general veto power over the election of instructors. *152 The state superintendent, upon whom fell the duty of distributing the normal school appropriation, being in doubt as to the constitutionality of the act making an appropriation to the school, referred the question to the Attorney General. That officer advised him that, since the General Assembly of the Presbyterian church was given power over one department of the university, it thereby became a sectarian institution. *153 It followed that any appropriation by the legislature for its support was in violation of Section 18 of Article III of the state constitution. *154 The Attorney General considered the question whether the separation of the university into departments made a material difference. He thought that it did not, since one board of trustees and one charter governed all departments. Moreover, he decided that the appointment of trustees from different denominations was an immaterial condition. *155
151 Act 11 May, 1874 P.L. p. 134.
152 Supt. of Common Schools, Report (1874), p. lxii.
153 Idem, pp. lxi-lxii.
154 Idem, p. lxii.
155 Idem, p. lxi.