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CHAPTER XII. ·
UNION FREE SCHOOLS.
The germ of the idea of an association of incorporated academies. with the local common schools may be found in two similar acts passed in 1822 and 1823, the former relating to Farmers' Hall Academy in the village of Goshen, Orange county,' and the latter to Oyster Bay Academy, in the village of Oyster Bay, Queens county.' These acts authorized the Trustees of the Academy to exercise the powers of the Trustees of the school districts of their respective villages, but not unless authorized by the consent of a majority of the taxable inhabitants of the district, nor longer than the period of six years, unless this consent was renewed from time to time, as these periods elapsed.
The first Academy organized in connection with the common schools, that became subject to visitation by the Regents, was the Rochester High School, incorporated by special act in 1827,' and admitted by the Regents, April 19, 1831. It was established upon the Lancasterian plan, but in 1835 was reorganized under a stock subscription, and has, with successive changes, continued to the present time. This was followed by the New York Free Academy in 1847,' and after this several others by special acts. On the 18th of June, 1853, a general act was passed providing for their organization anywhere, and for the election of Boards of Education for their management. Academic departments might be formed whenever they might be thought necessary, and when admitted under the visitation of the Regents, in accordance with their rules in matters pertaining to education (but not with reference to buildings unless separate), they were to enjoy the full advantages of Academies.*
The first application that came before the Regents, for the incorporation of Academic Departments in Union Schools, under the act of June 18, 1853, was from the Board of Education of Union Free Schools in District No. 1 of Warsaw, in which it was requested that the department should be called the "Warsaw Academy."
Upon an examination of the law it was decided that the Regents
1 Chap. 197, Laws of 1822, p. 196; passed April 12, 1822.
2 Chap. 150, Laws of 1823, p. 170; passed April 12, 1823.
3 Chap. 70, Laws of 1827, p. 55; passed March 15, 1827.
4 Chap. 206, Laws of 1847.
5 Chap. 433, Laws of 1853.
6 This privilege was reaffirmed in chapter 450, Laws of 1862.
had no power to call the Academical Department of such schools an "Academy;" they were only authorized to establish an Academical Department.
This ruling has since been followed in cases of this kind where the name was not otherwise given by special acts. In the case above cited, the decision was not willingly accepted, and the Board of Education of Warsaw petitioned the Legislature for a change, representing that the name given was " unnecessarily clumsy and inconvenient," and asking that the name first asked for be allowed. This was referred, by the Senate, to the Regents, who replied that under the act they could not change the name, and added: "But if they had such power they would not exercise it, considering, as they do, that the name provided by law, that of Academical Department of a Union School, is descriptive of the real character of the Department, and of its relation to such a school, and that it is better than any other name not descriptive of such character and relation."
These Union Schools with Academic Departments, sharing in the dividends both of the Common School and of the Literature Funds, and supported by public tax, under our Free School system, soon became powerful rivals of the old Academies in every part of the State. The feebler ones have been obliged to unite with the Comnon Schools in a large number of cases, sometimes under special acts, retaining a qualified existence under their separate Trustees, and in others being placed entirely in charge of a Board of Education having full control of both.
In some of these Union Schools, where Academies formerly existed, with facilities for preparing young men for College, the course of instruction does not now meet this want. There appears to be a need of institutions where this preparation can be made a special object of attention, and this cannot well be done except at endowed Academies, with means sufficient to enable them, with what funds. they receive from the Regents, to fully meet this requirement.
The Powers of a Board of Education in Abolishing an Academic Department, and of Restoring it again after it had been Abol ished.
The question having been repeatedly raised, as to the power of a Board of Education to abolish and to restore an Academic Department in a Union School, the subject was referred to the AttorneyGeneral for his opinion in December, 1879, and on the 20th of December of that year he replied as follows:
* * * "The section referred to (§ 24, Title IX of the Code of Public Instruction) delegates to Boards of Education of Union Free Schools the power, in case they shall be authorized thereto by a vote of the voters of the district, to do a specific act. That is, when an Academy shall exist within their district, they may adopt such Acad emy as the Academical Department of the district, with the consent of the Trustees of the Academy; and the Trustees of the Academy are thereupon required by resolution, to be attested by the signatures of the officers of the Board, to file in the office of the clerk of the county, a declaration that their offices are vacant. The Academy then becomes an Academical Department of such Union Free School.
"The whole scope of this section is the power to establish an Academical Department in the manner provided, which, it was evi. dently contemplated, should be permanent, and no provision exists for reconsidering or annulling the action taken in the premises.
"I am of opinion, therefore, that the power of Boards of Education under this section is exhausted when they have adopted an Academy as the Academical Department of their district, and that their action is final.
"In case a change to the original condition as an independent Academy should be deemed desirable, the only manner in which it can be done is by an enabling act, for that purpose, from the Legislature.
Very respectfully yours,
A. SCHOONMAKER, JR.,
STATE TAX FOR ACADEMIES AND UNION DEPARTMENTS OF DISTRICT SCHOOLS THE QUESTION OF APPROPRIATIONS TO DENOMINATIONAL SCHOOLS.
A clause in chapter 736, passed May 15, 1872, imposed a general tax of one-sixteenth of a mill on each dollar of valuation, to meet an appropriation of $125,000, which had been made in chapter 541 of the Laws of that year. This act contained a clause directing "the sum thus arising to be divided as the Literature Fund is now divided, which is hereby ordered to be levied for each and every year."
An act passed May 29, 1873,' directed the above sum to be dis tributed in the following manner:
The sum of $3,000, or so much as might be required in addition to the annual appropriation of $3,000, usually granted from the Literature Fund, for the purchase of books and apparatus. The sum
Chap. 642, Laws of 1873.
of $12,000, in addition to the $18,000 usually granted from United States Deposit Fund, for the instruction of cominon school teachers, the whole sum to be apportioned and paid to the several institutions that might give instruction as then provided by law, at the rate of $15 for each scholar instructed during a term of thirteen weeks, and at the same rate for not less than ten, or more than twenty weeks. The balance of the $125,000 (with an exception to be noted) was to be distributed as the Literature Fund was divided, but no money was to be paid to any school under the control of any religious or denominational sect or society.
Uncertainties having arisen with respect to the true meaning of the last clause above cited, the matter was on the 31st of July referred to the Attorney-General for his opinion. It appeared doubtful as to whether the exclusion would not apply to the apportionment of the $40,000 annually granted from the income of the Literature, and the United States Deposit Funds, as well as to the special grant of $125,000, and payment was temporarily suspended in five cases that came apparently under the excluded class.1
In the meantime inquiries were made, and on the 9th of January, 1874, the Chancellor stated, that these inquiries had failed to show that the doctrines or tenets of any denomination or sect were taught in any Academy receiving a distributive share of the Literature Fund.
In the case of the five Academies whose shares had been withheld their acts of incorporation by the Legislature had vested the appointment of Trustees in Ecclesiastical bodies. The Hartwick Seminary had a charter that required the Principal and a majority of the Trustees to be Lutherans. No exception was made of these Trustees from the provisions of the general law, which defines the powers and duties of the Trustees of Academies. An opinion of Hon. Richard P. Marvin, late Justice of the Supreme Court, in behalf of the Chamberlain Institute was read, and the Rev. J. T. Edwards, Principal of that Academy, was heard in its behalf.
A resolution was finally passed, declaring that none of the Academies mentioned as exceptional, should be deemed as coming within the meaning of the act, excepting Hartwick Seminary.
These were the "Genesee Wesleyan Seminary," "Chamberlain Institute," "Central New York Conference Seminary," "Clinton Liberal Institute," and "Northern New York Conference Seminary," all of which were Methodist institutions, excepting the fourth, which was under Universalist management. A like order was applied to " Hartwick Seminary," under quasi denominational control (Lutheran).
A clause was included in chapter 642, Laws of 1873, requiring the Regents to admit to their examinations scholars from the Union, Common or Free Schools that brought a certificate from the principal teacher, or a Trustee, stating a belief that the scholar could pass.
Reports of examinations under this act are made by Academies in their annual reports, and large numbers have been admitted to examination from the public schools, more particularly in cities and large villages.
Free instruction in the classics and higher branches of English education, or both, was to be given to the extent of $12, and, if the condition of the fund would permit, not less than $20 for tuition, such students having passed examinations as prescribed by the rules. Premiums of not over $2,500 for excellence in scholarship might also be allowed.
The amount of $17,422.76 was set apart for free instruction under the above act, leaving (after taking out the specific appropriations) the sum of $89,077.24, to be distributed in the same manner as the Literature Fund. The appropriation resulting from a direct specific tax, although declared to be intended for permanence, was continued only one year.
LANCASTERIAN SCHOOLS-SELECT SCHOOLS.
In the early part of this century, a system of instruction was introduced in which the pupils were grouped around Monitors and taught with great economy. It was for many years almost universally adopted in the large cities, and even in the higher class of pay schools. The New York High School, which for a number of years held the first rank, under Daniel H. Barnes, Shepherd Johnson and John Griscom and others, was conducted on the Lancasterian or Monitorial System.
This method had much to be commended in the way of economy, as one teacher could divert the operations of several Monitors, each with his group of ten or fifteen pupils, and those who were first employed in introducing it into the city of New York must have been peculiarly well qualified in their profession. It produced results full of promise, and for a time bore a rich harvest.