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VII. GENERAL SUMMARY.
As has been shown, State school legislation pertaining to elementary school finance involves both central and local control. From a study of legislation alone, however, it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine with accuracy the degree of centralization or localization existent. In the first place, taking some of the standards considered, central control operates only when localities desire to exercise certain functions or to avail themselves of certain opportunities offered by a State; hence to have a true picture of control the extent to which localities exercise their prerogatives must be known. In the second place, as strict obedience is by no means universal, the extent to which localities live up to the letter and the spirit of the laws must be known before drawing a too definite conclusion. In a word, complete data would require a knowledge of actual practice, as well as of legislation. This study of elementary school finance attempts only the latter; and to the extent to which practice, for one or other of the two general reasons just stated, fails to coincide with legislation, to that extent are its findings open to question. In the main, however, it may be assumed that any difference between law and practice is not so great as to affect very appreciably the conclusions reached, which, after all, should be regarded as broad generalizations showing tendencies rather than as an attempt to depict exact conditions.
In general, it may be stated that some standards which on the surface or by their nature apparently indicate centralization, upon analysis reveal local control or divided control; while other standards which seem essentially local in their bearing, in reality indicate centralized control.
The distribution of State school moneys was regarded as being in itself a central and a centralizing process; the bases upon which such distribution is made, however, indicate varying degrees of centralization. A distribution on a school population or on a property valuation basis exacts little or nothing from localities and consequently indicates little centralization of control. A distribution either on attendance of pupils, number of teachers employed, or ratio of local school tax to total town tax, requires localities to exercise a certain amount of effort or cooperation in order to secure their full quota of school moneys, while distribution on an inverse property valuation basis tends to equalize the burden of local taxation proportionately to community wealth. Through such methods of distribution: central control is brought considerably more into evidence. There
fore in view of the fact that two-thirds of the States distribute State school moneys on bases which demand practically no local effort, it was concluded that the standard at the present time really indicates localization; yet there are easy possibilities for effective centralization by the simple expedient of a change in the bases of distribution.
The standard dealing with the expenditure of State school moneys showed that complete restriction denotes control wholly central; partial restriction, control partly central and partly local; while a total lack of restriction leaves control entirely to localities. Inasmuch as 23 States completely restrict such expenditure, 7 partially restrict it, and 18 leave the expenditure unrestricted, the conclusion was reached that control within this standard may be said to be divided, with a tendency toward centralization.
The act of granting State aid was found to be a central and a centralizing process, because of the conditions with which localities must comply before receiving such aid. Considering, however, that State aid is granted in but 34 States; that localities may accept or reject State aid as they please; and that many of the purposes for which State aid is granted would not appeal universally to local school authorities as being absolute necessities, it was concluded that control under this standard is divided, with a tendency toward localization. Nevertheless, there must be kept in mind the fact that State aid is steadily growing in respect to both purposes and amounts, and that as localities increasingly avail themselves of its advantages, and thereby habituate themselves to a compliance with attached conditions, to a corresponding extent will centralization also increase.
On the surface, the standard dealing with authority to borrow money and to issue bonds indicates localization of control, since authority to act is vested in localities. An analysis, however, revealed the presence of numerous and rather binding restrictions in almost all of the 44 States authorizing the creation of such local indebtedness. This fact, coupled with the rather general need of localities to secure money in this manner, led to the conclusion that the standard really indicates centralization.
The next standard, dealing with State regulation of the taxing duties and powers of localities, in itself conveys no presupposition as to the location of control, but when analyzed from a double viewpoint first, that of unspecified, minimum, or fixed requirements; second, that of maximum limitations-the standard was taken to be indicative of centralization. This conclusion was reached after
giving due weight to the facts, first, that of the 40 States establishing unspecified, minimum, or fixed requirements, 18 States leave the amount or rate of required tax indefinite; and second, that, although 42 States have adopted maximum limitations, the purposes of taxation to which some of these limitations apply are relatively unimportant.
The last standard, dealing with State intervention when local school authorities fail in performance of duty, carries with it the thought of centralization of control. As analyzed, there were found to be three forms of State intervention existent in relation to matters involving finance: First, the transfer of authority from a local to a State officer because of neglect of duty involving finance, occurring in 13 States; second, liability of localities or local school officers to the State for the same cause, occurring in 11 States; and third, the withholding of State school moneys from offending localities because of failure to carry out one or more State regulations, occurring in 40 States. Legislation as thus analyzed confirmed the implication of the standard itself, showing a strong tendency toward centralization. Considering elementary school finance as a whole, therefore, it may be characterized as indicating divided control with a fairly strong tendency toward centralization. This conclusion seems to be a natural one, especially when viewed in the light of legislation other than school legislation. In general, for some years past, the movement of legislation throughout the country in matters where large financial interests are involved seems to have been constantly in the direction of increased centralization of control. Therefore it is not surprising to find that elementary school finance—a fundamental factor in the development and maintenance of efficient schoolsshould reflect in its tendency a general movement of much wider
Summary chart showing location of control.
Basis for the distribution of State school moneys..
Extent of restriction attached to the local expenditure of State school
Restrictions upon the right of localities to borrow money and to issue bonds.
Local Divided Central control. control. control.
BULLETIN OF THE BUREAU OF EDUCATION.
[NOTE.-With the exceptions indicated, the documents named below will be sent free of charge upon application to the Commissioner of Education, Washington, D. C. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are no longer available for free distribution, but may be had of the Superintendent of Documents, Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., upon payment of the price stated. Remittances should be made in coin, currency, or money order. Stamps are not accepted. Numbers omitted are out of print.]
*No. 3. State school systems: Legislation and judicial decisions relating to public education, Oct. 1, 1904, to Oct. 1, 1906. Edward C Elliott. 15 cts.
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