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I. BASES FOR THE DISTRIBUTION OF STATE SCHOOL MONEYS.
One of the most important features of public-school finance is the distribution of State school moneys among localities. For the purpose of locating control, the bases upon which such moneys are generally so distributed may be classified into two general groups: Group 1—(a) School population; (b) valuation of taxable property; Group 2-(a) Attendance of pupils; (b) number of teachers employed or number of legal schools maintained; (c) inverse property valuation; (d) ratio of local school tax to total local tax.
In some States, State school moneys are distributed directly to districts. In most States, State moneys are distributed to counties upon designated bases, and then redistributed to districts upon the same bases. In a few States, which are treated separately, the bases for redistribution among districts are different from the bases for distribution among counties.
Thirty-three States distribute State school moneys on bases included in the first group, namely, school population and valuation of taxable property.
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming distribute State school funds on the basis of school population. In Maine all of the proceeds of a State tax of 11⁄2 mills, also a sum equal to 6 per cent of the amount of the permanent school fund, and also one-half the sum received by the State from the tax on the franchises of savings banks, and one-half the sum assessed upon the deposits of trust and banking companies are distributed among the several towns according to the number of children therein; further, one-third of the commonschool fund (an additional State tax of 14 mills) is distributed on a school population basis, and two-thirds on a property valuation basis.
Eleven States distribute on bases belonging to the second group, namely, attendance of pupils, number of teachers employed or the number of legal schools maintained, inverse property valuation, and ratio of local school tax to total local tax.
California distributes on an estimate of the number of teachers employed and the average daily attendance; Delaware, on the number of teachers employed; Florida, on the average attendance. Massachusetts distributes among towns whose assessed property valuation does not exceed $2,500,000, a part of its moneys being apportioned in an inverse ratio to the amount of taxable property in each town and the remainder in such a manner that the greater the ratio of local school tax to the entire town tax, the greater is the amount of State funds received. Minnesota distributes on the num
1 Special appropriations, or appropriations deducted from State school moneys before the regular distribution is made, are disregarded in this chapter because of their lack of general applicability.
ber of pupils who have attended school for at least 40 days; Missouri, on the number of teachers employed and the total number of days' attendance; New Hampshire, on the number of pupils who have attended school for not less than two weeks during the year and on an inverse property valuation basis; 1 New York, on inverse property valuation2 and the number of teachers employed; South Carolina, on the number of pupils attending day school for at least 10 school days or evening school for at least 20 evenings; Vermont, on the percentage of the grand list (total local tax) expended for current expenses in the maintenance of schools, on the number of teachers with specific qualifications employed in rural schools, and the remainder on the number of legal schools maintained; 3 and Washington, on the total number of days' attendance.1
COMBINATION OF GROUP 1 AND GROUP 2.
The four remaining States distribute on bases listed under both groups:
Nevada distributes 70 per cent of the State distributive school fund (entire State school fund) on the number of teachers employed and 30 per cent on school population. New Jersey distributes the State school fund on the total number of days' attendance; while the State appropriation of at least $100,000, the proceeds of 90 per cent of the State school tax, and a part of the State railroad tax are distributed in proportion to the amount of taxable real and personal estate in each county. Pennsylvania distributes one-half of the State appropriation on the number of teachers employed and one-half on the school population. In Rhode Island the sum of $100 is apportioned to each school, not exceeding 15 in number in any one town, and the remainder of the State school money is distributed in proportion to the school population.
REDISTRIBUTION BY COUNTIES ON CHANGED BASIS.
In a few States, State school moneys are distributed to counties on one basis and redistributed among districts on a different basis. Generally, the evident purpose of such a policy is to have the State moneys reach the final local unit of distribution upon a more equitable basis than that of the original distribution.
In Alabama, State school moneys are distributed to counties upon a school population basis and redistributed among the districts and townships in such manner as to provide, as nearly as possible, school terms of equal duration. In Arizona, the basis of distribution among counties is school population; from county to districts the basis of redistribution is average daily attendance, with the proviso that each district must be apportioned at least $1,000. In Idaho, the basis of distribution among counties is school population; the method of redistribution among districts is as follows: Two-thirds of all public-school moneys are apportioned on a school-population basis; 5 per cent of the remaining one-third, or such of the same as may be needed,
1 The inverse property valuation basis applies only to an additional amount distributed among towns of not more than 3,500 inhabitants and whose property valuation ranges from $2,000 to $7,000 per pupil in average attendance.
2 So far as this basis is concerned, it applies to districts of various property assessments up to $60,000. Districts and cities having property valuation above that amount receive a fixed sum.
3 A legal school is one which has been maintained during any school year at least 150 days, including holidays and others allowed by law, unless said school was ordered closed by the local health officer on account of an epidemic, and in which the average daily attendance of pupils has been not less than six, and which has been taught by a duly qualified and legally certificated teacher whose register has been kept and returned as required by law.
4 The attendance of pupils of legal school age duly reported as being in private schools is included.
is apportioned among the rural high-school districts and districts organized under the consolidation plan in proportion to the number of teachers employed therein; 50 per cent of the remainder, or so much as may be needed, is used for the relief of all districts which are unable to maintain the minimum term; the balance is apportioned among the several districts per capita per school child. In Nebraska, the basis for distribution among counties is school population; State funds, increased by proceeds of fines and licenses, are redistributed among districts as follows, one-fourth equally and three-fourths according to school population. In New Jersey, the State school fund is distributed to counties on the basis of total days' attendance, while the State appropriation of at least $100,000, the proceeds of the State tax for school purposes, and the proceeds of the railroad tax are distributed to counties on the basis of the total number of ratables; all such funds are redistributed among districts on a combined teacher and total days' attendance basis. In South Dakota, State school moneys are distributed to counties upon a school-population basis, and redistributed among the districts in proportion to the acreage of State-owned indemnity and endowment lands in each school district, with the proviso that the amount received by any district in any year may not exceed the equivalent of 5 cents per acre or $250 per school.
Unfortunately the bases selected by State legislatures for the distribution of school moneys do not always produce the desired result—that is, an equalization of educational advantages throughout the State. Distribution either on a property-valuation basis or a school-population basis appears at first thought to be fair, but may result in aiding most the very localities that are best able to care for themselves and in slighting those that can ill afford to be neglected. That is, distribution on a property-valuation basis means that the richer localities receive the greater amount of State support, irrespective of their real educational needs, which may or may not be proportionate to wealth. However, it should be noted that neither of the two States that have adopted this basis-Maine and New Jersey-apportions all of its school moneys on such basis alone.
While the inequality of distribution on a school-population basis is probably not so marked as it is on a property-valuation basis, nevertheless inequality exists to a considerable degree. By school population is meant the total number of children of certain ages residing in a given locality. These ages are not coincident with the ages of compulsory attendance, but extend over a greater period. Therefore, it may so happen, for example, in the case of two localities having school populations of the same size, that the one which does not enforce the compulsory-attendance law nor encourage the attendance of children before and after the compulsory-attendance age, nor provide kindergarten and high-school facilities, may receive relatively more per pupil in actual attendance than the other locality which does all of these things, Therefore, the more a locality fosters its schools, the greater is the amount of local school tax which it has to levy. The more progressive a locality is, the greater does the
inequity under this method of distribution become. It is interesting to note here the corrective which Michigan has adopted, namely, that when any school district shall have on hand enough funds to meet its needs, the children in said district
shall not be counted in the apportionment until the amount of money in the primaryschool interest fund in said district is insufficient to pay teachers' wages or tuition for the next ensuing two years.
All of the bases in the second group seem to be more equitable than those so far considered. An inverse property valuation basis has as its fundamental purpose an equalization of educational advantages, inasmuch as the poorer localities receive more or relatively more than the richer localities, which are better able to support their schools by local tax; while the distribution of moneys on the principle that the more a locality appropriates for its schools the more it will receive from the State has stimulation of local support as its purpose. The other bases, that is, attendance of pupils and number of teachers employed, are also not only more equitable than the bases under the first heading, but they also have the effect of stimulating local authorities to constant activity. On the one basis, local authorities must see that children are encouraged to attend school; on the other basis, a State offers an inducement to local authorities to employ a number of teachers sufficient to meet the needs of the locality.
The methods of distributing State school funds on a school population basis or on a property valuation basis have no doubt been adopted on account of simplicity, but little control exists under such methods of distribution. The modification of the method of distributing on a property valuation basis—that is, inversely in proportion to the wealth of the locality-indicates a rise of the idea of the necessity of attempting to secure equality of educational opportunity and suggests central control. The methods of distributing on the bases of attendance or of number of teachers employed have doubtless been adopted in order to establish a closer correlation between need and award, and the method of distribution according to the ratio of local school tax to total local tax has for its purpose the direct recognition of local initiative; but all these methods have also had the effect of increasing central control.
From this analysis, it may be said that in the matter of distribution of State school funds the present status of educational control is that of incomplete and ineffective centralization. Fundamentally, the distribution of State school moneys is in itself a central and a centralizing process, but in only a comparatively few States do the methods of distribution in vogue give opportunity for the exercise of efficient central control; practically, therefore, a safer characterization of the results of the analysis would be to say that they indicate
an actual condition of localization rather than of centralization. However, in proportion as the States endeavor to equalize educational opportunity on the one hand, and on the other to encourage local effort and local initiative by adopting distributive bases looking toward these ends, to that extent will centralized control become increasingly effective.