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The Regents, in a report made March 20, 1830, in reply to resolutions of the Senate, concerning the best mode of distributing the income of the Literature Fund, suggested that the inequality that appeared in the operation of the rule of apportionment by Senatorial Districts in the first year, would be likely to increase rather than diminish, from the number of new Academies that were annually rising up, principally in the new counties, unless some of the insti. tutions in the city of New York were allowed to participate in the distribution, and remark, that “ although the number and high standing of our Academies are subjects of felicitation, yet there is a medium as to numbers, beyond which usefulness may be questioned. The patronage which would barely sustain one hundred in a feeble, lingering condition, would support half this number in a state of progressive improvement and usefulness. As most of the academic scholars go from home for instruction, the expense of education would not be materially increased, while its value would be enhanced by a more concentrated patronage. The public benefits expected from literary schools do not depend so much upon the number as upon the character of these schools; not so much upon location, as upon the abilities and qualifications of the teachers, the extent of the philosophical apparatus, library, etc. Of the large sums expended by the State upon our Academies, it is believed, but a small portion has been employed for objects of perinanent improvement, owing to their rapid increase, and diminution of patronage, resulting as well from this increase as from the establishment of numerous select schools for teaching the higher branches of education.”
On subsequent occasions the Regents referred to the rule of distribution by Senatorial Districts as unequal in its operation, and it was repeatedly made the subject of remonstrance, but the only special notice taken by the Legislature, was in a report in Assembly, made April 19, 1841, from the House Committee on Colleges, Academies and Common Schools, occasioned by numerous petitions, chiefly from the Fifth District. This report was adverse to a change, although admitting that the Fifth Dietrict would receive $1,535.48 more, and the First District $855.70 less, upon a uniform apportionment based upon attendance throughout the whole State.
DISTRIBUTION OF THE LITERATURE FUND BY SENATORIAL DISTRICTS
FROM THE TIME WHEN THE REVISED STATUTES TOOK EFFECT IN 1830 TILL THE ADOPTION OF THE CONSTITUTION IN 1846.
(1.) Number of Students Allowed to have Pursued Classical
(2.) Amount distributed in each Senatorial District, and the
Amount that would have been due upon a uniform Distribution based upon the Number of Students pursuing Classical Studies throughout the State.
Amount that would have been received by each Senatorial District upon a
uniform Distribution for the whole State.
$747 01 $2,130 88 $1,251 50 82, 444 12 $1,236 73
1,873 87 1,198 20 2, 171 17 1,067 57
994 10 2,363 77 1,074 35 2,639 53 1,038 02 1,254 97 2, 172 32 1, 117 53 2,719 12 1,234 06 1, 446 20 2, 257 63 1, 112 06 2,265 21 1, 014 01 1, 450 64 2,706 31 1,343 64 2, 439 87 1,067 86 4,941 67 7,480 50 5,784 53 6,392 07 3,736 66 4,175 36 6,582 00 5,396 87 6,501 83 4,098 50 4,402 14 5,862 90 5,651 80 6,154 06 4,103 70 4,030 30 5,575 76
5,048 50 6,613 67 3, 939 40 3,529 10 4,991 27 5, 458 60 7,077 20 4,046 90 3,608 10 3,163 86 5,885 07 6,357 63 4,311 17 3,50 31 5,370 54 6, 215 53 5, 406 40 3,259 84 3,687 87 5, 675 70 6,067 97 4, 860 26 3, 709 00
Return to the Plan of. Impartial Distribution for the whole State.
The apportionment by Senatorial districts continued through seventeen years, and until superseded by a clause in the Constitution of 1846. It was said in its defense, that the object of the subsidy was to encourage feeble academies in poor and thinly settled districts ; but we can scarcely understand the force of this, since the district most benefited was that including New York city.
Upon the return to a plan of distribution upon equal terms for the whole State, but little change was made in the details of operation for a long period. By referring to the table of Attendance in Academies, showing the numbers claimed and allowed, it will be seen from the percentage column that the number participating in the distribution of the Literature Fund was a very large percentage of the number claimed as entitled to the privilege, until the year 1866, when it suddenly dropped from a point high up among the “nineties," down to less than two-thirds, and in two years later to less than half.
If we seek to learn the reason of this sudden change, it will not be found due to any change in the law, or in the form of the reports, or in the instructions under which they were made, but to increased attention in the scrutinizing of the reports, and the rejection of many claims that were not strictly in conformity with the spirit and letter of the ordinances under which the distribution was made.
In February, 1855, a standing committee was appointed upon the Distribution of the Literature Fund, consisting of Mr. Hawley, the Lieutenant-Governor (Mr. Thomas G. Alvord) and Mr. Parks; and on the 12th of January, 1866, the Lieutenant-Governor, from this Committee, reported as follows:
“ That reports have been received from 202 Academies, and that the most careful and critical examination, embracing months of labor, has been given to them. While many are so accurately made as to require no correction, either in their financial or literary parts, others are deficient or incorrect in both. The printed forms, prepared with great care, are designed to relieve the officers of the Academies of much of the labor to which they would otherwise be subjected. The part of the report which relates to corporate property and financial affairs, is quite minute in its details, but not more so than is required for the preservation of the property and the economical administration of the finances. There is a strong tendency in all corporate bodies not created for the direct pecuniary in. terest of the corporators, to transfer labor and responsibility, which in the case of Academies, are often devolved almost wholly on the Principal, whose connection with the institution is often only temporary. This necessity produces laxity of management and neglect of that care of property which is indispensable to its preservation. The Committee have no doubt that the responsibility to which the trustees of Academies are held in the details of their annual reports, has contributed very essentially to the preservation of their academic
property, and they are decidedly of opinion, that such responsibility should not be in any degree relaxed. In all cases where the reports have been defective, they have been returned for correction, or have been corrected by correspondence, which has extended to more than one hundred letters.
The greater part of the labor of examining the reports has been expended on the schedule of studies, on which the sum to be apportioned to each Academy depends. The ordinance defining preliminary studies, and directing the mode in which the schedule shall be made, is believed to be as specific as it can be, while the examination to determine preliminary scholarship is left to the discretion of the principals of Academies. While this discretion is permitted, no uniform standard of scholarship will prevail, and those scholars will be claimed for the distribution of the Literature Fund in one Academy, whom a higher standard will exclude in another.”
Applying the rules more strictly than had been practiced before, they excluded over twelve per cent of the number claimed.
The prevailing reason of exclusion was, that preliminary studies were pursued, either in whole or in part, by many scholars, showing that such studies had not been completed at the commencement of the course of higher studies, as required by the ordinance of the Regents.
It was evident from this searching investigation that the old system of apportionment involved radical defects. This had been felt for years, and the Regents in their report of 1864 said:
“ The apportionment and distribution of the income of the Literatnre Fund was regulated by law when the system of public education in this State was in comparative infancy, and the Legislature adopted perhaps the best mode which was then practicable. In the judgment of the Regents, that mode of distribution does not now produce the amount of good which the people ought to derive, intended as it was, to operate only as a constantly active and increasing healthy stimulus to higher education. At a more recent period, the State also authorized the Board to distribute moneys to Academies to promote the education of teachers, making certain Acadennies practically from year to year, Normal Schools. The evident general intention of both these distributions is the same double purpose, of strengthening and sustaining the Academies, and of stimulating higher education and better modes of instruction. Yet merit in learning, and proficiency and merit in instruction are neither of them allowed to enter as an eleinent in the mode of distribution.
The Regents suggest the practicability and expediency of making the distribution in both cases to depend upon merit as ascertained by competition and comparative examination, upon which might be made to depend also promotions and honors in the form of scholarships and fellowships in the Colleges which would be sought with enlightened emulation as honorable distinctions, and also as positive evidences of actual merit.
It is the system of State competitive examinations, which gives to public education in Europe much of that thoroughness and exactness which is wanting in this country, and without which schools fail everywhere to produce their highest results. The Regents are not ignorant that it is soinetimes assumed that the best mode of promoting the education of the people is to confine the bounty of the State to the Common Schools. They consider all the educational institutions of the State - Colleges, Academies and Common Schools - as but dependent parts of one great and harmonious system in which the teaching of the alphabet and of the higher branches of learning are equally important; as incentives, as objects of admiration, emulation and ambition, the higher Seminaries, the Normal School, the Academy, the College and the University are worth to the Common Schools themselves, even in their lower forms, much more than their cost, and when to this we add their value as contrib. utors to the productive power of the State, and to its honor, glory and strength, their value cannot be over-estimated. * tinguished citizens of this State deeply interested in public education, have urged the Regents to take measures for annual competitive examinations, which the Board would proceed to do if adequate funds were placed at their disposal for that purpose.”
WRITTEN EXAMINATIONS IN ACADEMIES. In accordance with the views expressed in the report of 1864, and under the general powers conferred upon the Regents for establishing rules and regulations for the government of Academies, the Board on the 27th of July, 1864, and as a first step toward a much needed change, adopted the following:
Ordinance relative to the Examination and Classification of
Scholars and the Distribution of the Literature Fund. “SECTION 1. The scholars in every Academy subject to the visitation of the Regents of the University, shall be divided into two classes, to be denominated Preparatory and Academic. Preparatory scholars shall be those who pursue studies preliminary to the higher branches of English education — the Academic scholars, those who