This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
In addition to the important subventions to common and normal schools and to colleges, the state now distributes a large amount annually to learned societies and organizations that contribute to the education of the public in a less formal way. These organizations, which are very diverse in character, include such concerns as the Pennsylvania State Historical Society and the Museum and School of Industrial Art. Appropriations to these organizations are not regarded as permanent. They vary from biennium to biennium, and at times are omitted entirely for a period of years. The total amount appropriated to all the institutions of this class at any session of the legislature is usually in excess of $50,000.
Assuming that these organizations are, in a majority of cases, entirely commendable and that the purposes of their existence are worthy ones, it does not follow that the state should subsidize them. They are usually local in scope, and their activities, although useful and praiseworthy, are not of the nature of public services. Or, to put it in another way, no one would suggest that the state should provide directly the services they render, and since they stand in such a vulnerable position, the organizations are subjected at times to severe criticism. *167 A very real objection to appropriations in their behalf is the partiality of the legislature. If one organization receives aid why not others? Lack of system, lack of state control, and lack of public purpose all condemn these grants.
The appropriations to a number of semi-private industrial and training schools are as unsystematic as those to the organizations just described. But the purpose served by these schools, which provide industrial training for neglected children, is such as to warrant state aid. Control by the state is, however, wanting and there is no assurance that the public funds are always efficiently used. *158
One of the defects of the existing school system noted by the state superintendent in 1874, was the unsystematic and inequitable scale of salaries paid the county superintendents. A number of laws were enacted between 1875 and 1911 with a view to requiring the localities to pay these officers salaries commensurate with the responsibilities they incurred and the work they performed. All these laws were replaced by the School Code of 1911. That act as amended in 1917 requires a minimum salary of $2,000 for each superintendent, and the maximum of $2,500, which the code establishes, may, under certain conditions, be increased. *159
157 See e.g., a statement in the House of Representatives, 17 May, 1911, Legislative Record, p. 2722, col. 1.
158 See the list of Training Schools receiving state aid, Aud. Gen. Report (1913), p. 567.
159 Sec. 1121, Act 18 May, 1911, P.L. p. 365, Act 6 July, 1917, P.L. p. 737.
A convention of the school directors of the districts within the county elects the superintendent. But a protest against the election may be made by the minority. If the majority of each of the boards of directors in one-fifth of the districts makes the protest, an appeal may be carried to the state superintendent. If he finds the objection and appeal based upon facts that, in his judgment, justify such action, he may throw out the election and declare the office vacant and may then make an appointment to fill the vacancy.160 This provision is a wise one for avoiding local quarrels, and undoubtedly constitutes a real check upon the localities. But it is obvious that in a majority of counties the excellence of the man selected still depends on the boards of directors. The state supertendent may, under the recent laws, as under those of earlier years, remove any county superintendent for " neglect of duty, incompetency, immorality, intemperance....." violation of the school law or other improper conduct. But this is a potential rather than an actual check.
The salary actually paid any given superintendent, is automatically determined and depends upon the number of schools over which he has jurisdiction. If, however, the number of schools should be large enough to indicate a salary in excess of $2,500, the convention of directors must authorize it before it can actually be paid.
In the more important counties assistant superintendents are also provided. They are appointed by the superintendent of the county and confirmed by the officers of the County School Directors Association, an organization established by the code of 1911. *161 The state pays, by special appropriation, the salaries of the assistants and of the county superintendents. But if a county, through the school directors, agrees to pay its superintendent more than $2,500, it must bear the excess which is deducted from its quota of the state subvention.
The legislation relative to the office of county superintendent shows the tendency toward centralization of the control of the school system. Through many roundabout processes and by offering bribes to the localities for their submission, the legislature is slowly bringing the common schools more and more under the control of the state superintendent and the newly created State Board of Education. *162
160 Sec. 1112, Act 18 May, 1911, P.L. p. 363-364.
161 Sec. 1127, idem, P.L. p. 367.
162 This board was created by the Act of 18 May, 1911. It is composed of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, ex-officio, and six members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate. Three of the six must be successful educators of high standing, connected with the public school system of the commonwealth. All the members serve without salary. The board is authorized to inspect and require reports from educational institutions wholly or partly supported by the state but not subject to public authorities. They are also required to encourage vocational training and to equalize the educational advantages of the different parts of the commonwealth, by means of funds appropriated for that purpose. Finally sanitary inspection of the schools is in their charge.