This section is from the "The Subvention In The State Finances Of Pennsylvania" book, by Frederic B. Garver.
But the reasons just given for the growing cost of public education do not account for the relatively more rapid increase of the state's share in its cost in Pennsylvania. Writers on educational subjects, and especially those who deal with pedagogy and school management, have been inclined to regard state-wide taxation for the support of the school system as the logical result of public recognition of state-wide interest in the education of all the children within the state. Thus Professor Cubberley asserts that "the people of a whole state agree to pool their efforts, in part, to help maintain a good system of schools throughout the state, the wealthier communities helping the poorer ones to share the burden of maintaining that which has come to be generally recognized as existing for the common good of all. " *25 The desire to equalize educational advantages, to give each child in the state the opportunity for a good education, and at the same time to equalize the burden of supporting the schools is undoubtedly one of the chief reasons for the existence of a subvention for education. But in Pennsylvania the relatively more rapid increase of the subvention, as compared with local taxation, has been caused chiefly by the demand of the local taxpayers that the property subject only to state taxation be made to bear a larger share in the cost of local governments. In Chapter VI it was pointed out that the augmentation of state subventions was one of the methods by which the General Assembly satisfied the demand of the rural communities for relief from taxation. Since the funds from which the subvention was derived were got by taxing corporations, a shifting of the burden of taxes upon different classes of taxpayers was thus accomplished.
The increase in the common school subvention was demanded by the agricultural interest as a means of reducing the burden of local taxation. During the legislative session of 1891, this demand was definitely put forward by the Grangers. *26 Ten years later a member of the General Assembly stated in debate that the interest of the rural communities in the school appropriation was especially great because that was about the only means by which they could acquire a share in the revenues collected by the state.27
25 P. 70. See also his Summary of Conclusions, no. 4, Ch. XVI, p. 250, and compare Strayer and Thorndike, Educational Administration, pp. 368-369.
26 Pittsburgh Dispatch, 18 May, 1891, p. 1.
Two years later, in 1903, a senator stated that "The corporations, the railroads, pay a large part of the tax which is apportioned to school purposes and they do so, as I understand it, because they do not pay local taxation, and the local authorities pay the tax for maintaining the township, the schools, the roads, the borough and city expenses, and so in that way the state pays back to the school districts, a liberal amount toward the maintaining of the schools. *28 And, in 1910, the state superintendent pointed out that the amount of the state appropriation for schools was conditioned by the property subject to state and to local taxation.29
Additional evidence that the subvention to common schools has been regarded as a means of relieving the local taxpayer is to be found in the statement of the state superintendent in 1893. In his report for that year the superintendent laments that in too many districts the directors reduced the tax rate to less than one mill when the larger state appropriation became available in 1892 and 1893.30 Again, in 1901, when the subvention had been further augmented, the same effect was apparent.31
A further reason for the growing subvention to common schools has been the prosperity of the state treasury. The state revenues are chiefly derived from taxes levied on transportation, financial, and insurance corporations, from the tax on inheritances, and from numerous business license taxes. With the growth of population and industry within the state these taxes became progressively more productive, *32 and the common schools participated, as did charitable institutions, in the increasing liberality of state expenditure. *33
27 Mr. Coray in the House of Representatives, 23 May, 1901, Legislative Record, p. 2666, col. 2.
28 Mr. Sisson, in the Senate, 1 April, 1903, Legislative Record, p. 2607, col. 1. See also, statement of Mr. J. W. Morrow, in the House of Representatives, 23 March, 1897, idem, p. 915.
29 Report (1910), p. xiv.
30 Report (1893), p. viii.
31 Report (1901), p. x.
32 See tables on pp. 143,145, and 146.
33 See infra, Ch. IX.
The Distribution of the Subvention to Common Schools We have seen that the state appropriation for the assistance of the common schools was greatly increased after 1889. Not only were the additions to the subvention large in absolute figures, but the rate of increase was greater in the case of the subvention than in the case of local taxation, or in the number of children attending the schools. It might appear, therefore, to the casual observer, that ample provision had been made, so far as the state was concerned, for the education of all the children. Such a conclusion would not, however, follow from the facts set forth in the preceding section. It would be faulty because it would assume that the appropriation was made directly for the benefit of the children. Actually the appropriation is made to the various districts. These districts then expend the funds appropriated by the state for the benefit of the children.