This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
The establishment of high schools in Pennsylvania preceded the first special state appropriation for their benefit by more than sixty years. Philadelphia was authorized to organize and to support a Central High School in 1836. *111 Several other cities very early opened schools that provided instruction in the more advanced subjects. All these advanced schools were assisted by the state through the subvention to common schools. This came about because the legislature did not limit the use of the state appropriation to the support of the elementary schools. A district's proportion depended upon the number of taxables it contained, and after the funds were paid over to the local officials, there was nothing in the laws to prevent their being used to support both elementary and secondary education. The state superintendents seem, during the period before 1857, to have been well aware that a portion of the state's money was being used by the cities to finance high schools. But these officers were far from objecting to a practice that, though probably not contemplated by the laws, was productive of desirable results.112
During the period before 1874, certain cities were given the power by special laws to provide for high schools, and in 1887 the legislature passed an act that authorized all cities and boroughs to establish and maintain them. *113 In 1895 the legislature authorized the directors or controllers of any school district to establish a high school. *114 Two or more townships (i.e., rural districts) were permitted to co-operate in forming a joint high school. When any township high school was established and when provision had been made for instruction in branches required by the state superintendent, it became entitled to state aid. *115 According to this law the high schools were divided into three classes, or grades, depending upon the number of years required to complete the course. *116 It was six years, however, before the legislature made an appropriation to carry into effect the provisions of the act of 1895. *117 An act, passed in 1901, permitted any township that centralized its schools to provide a high school. *118 In the same year $50,000 was appropriated for the aid of all township high schools, *119 but this appropriation proved inadequate to meet all the applications coming to the state superintendent from schools able to meet the requirements. Only 75 per cent of the amount to which each school was entitled by law was actually paid during the year 1901-1902. *120
111 Wickersham, p. 343.
112 Wickersham, p. 272.
113 Act 13 May, 1887, P.L. p. 104.
114 Act 28 June, 1895, P.L. p. 413.
116 High Schools providing a four year course ...1st class.
three " " ....2nd class. " " " two " " ....3d class.
First class schools were entitled to $800 annually, second class, $600, and third class, $400. Act 28 June, 1895, P.L. p. 413.
The superintendent was of the opinion that this appropriation, though small and inadequate, was very effective for good results. It not only gave many of the children in rural districts the benefit of a better education, but also awakened public interest in matters educational by assisting the people to improve the schools. *121 "The schools," he wrote, "make progress whenever the state's money stimulates local sacrifice; they deteriorate whenever the state appropriation is used to reduce local taxation or is squandered in the purchase of fanciful apparatus and other questionable appliances. *122 Whatever we may think of the latter proposition, we must give unqualified assent to the former. The subvention to schools has accomplished most in Pennsylvania when it has been offered as a premium to localities that were willing to make some sacrifice in order to introduce improvements.
In 1902 only 66 districts, or co-operation districts, were reported as eligible to receive the subvention to township high schools. *123 But in 1903 the number was 121. *124 Since that date the increase has been rapid.125
Borough high schools were not assisted until 1907, when the legislature appropriated $230,000 to be distributed among them according to the plan determined upon in 1895. *126 In that year township high schools were voted $275,000. *127 The progress of the subvention to high schools is shown in the Table III, Appendix.
117 It was not repealed until 1911, when the school code was enacted. 118 Act 25 April, 1901, P.L. pp. 105-106.
119 Sec. 8, Act 18 July, 1901, P.L. pp. 838-839.
120 Supt. of Public Instruction, Report (1902), pp. vi-vii.
121 Idem, p. vii. 122 Ibid.
123 Idem, p. vi-vii.
124 Idem, Report (1903), p. viii.
126 Sec. 8, Act 14 June, 1907, P.L. p. 790.