Page images
PDF
EPUB

to be free, and, therefore, (3) the property of the whole State is responsible for such education of every child in the State as will prepare him to perform the duties of a man and a citizen in obedience to the laws of God and the laws of the Commonwealth." The enthusiastic superintendent proceeded at once to put on paper “A bill to establish a uniform syst?m of public instruction for the State of Maryland.” It was elaborate, ideal, and in its way “a model system,” covering 50 pages of legislative printed matter, with a “commentary” containing suggestions for the future as extended. It contained not only all the provisions of the common school system of the most advanced educational States in 1864, but additional features not even yet incorporated in the school laws of several of these Commonwealths. In its general idea .of organization and administration it adopted the plan six years later followed by the State of Virginia. The supervisors for the counties and the city of Baltimore were to be appointed by a State board of education composed of the governor, lieutenant-governor, speaker of the house of delegates, and State superintendent of public education, the latter appointed by the governor with confirmation by the senate.

The schools of Baltimore and each county were to be under a school director. To this State board of education was given a power little short of absolute in the supervision of the entire educational affairs of the State, including academies receiving State aid or incorporated by the legislature. This school board was empowered to issue a uniform code of by-laws for the government of all schools under its charge. It appointed the officers of the State normal school and for cause could dismiss any school director. It supervised all the benevolent, reformatory, and remedial institutions receiving State aid and could act as investor and treasurer of any funds, State or local, in trust for education. The State superintendent, in addition to a larger sphere of duty than was then conferred on any official of his sort in the Union, was made principal ex officio of the State normal school, supervised the establishment of school district libraries, contracted for and issued all school text-books, and granted certificates for teachers, all on a salary of $1,500 per annum, with no additional compensation for his clerk save personal expenses. The one school director for Baltimore and each county, appɔinted for a term of four years, was practically required to carry out whatever plan the State board might conceive, and could be suspended or dismissed for cause. This one official was burdened with duties practically impossible of fulfillment; his salary was determined by the city government of Baltimore or by the State board of education. Under this same direction a board of school commissioners for each county should be appointed by the State board, a body corporate elected for four years, e:ch member to be supervisor of at least 15 schools. He was authorized to district the county. to distribute school funds, and generally to supervise education.

The New Testament was to be read by every teacher at the opening of his school. Every school district should have the power of imposing a local tax for the schools, not to exceed $500. Schoolhouses should be built at the expense of the county. The schools should be in session at least six months of the year and free to all from the age of 6 to 19. Teachers were appointed by the district commissioners after certification of qualification. Children under 14 years of age should not be employed in any business without attending school six months in the same year. Text-books should be uniform and distributed at an advance of 5 per cent on their cost. Each county might establish a high school for both sexes, the State fund for subsidizing academies being available for their support. A group of colleges should be subsidized under the name of the State university and free scholarships be granted for their students. Strict provisions were made for the examination of teachers, and a teachers' institute should be held for ten days in every county containing 50 teachers. A State normal school should be at once established, of which the State superintendent should be the principal, coeducational, at the extreme admitting 250 pupils. This elaborate system was to be supported by a State tax of 15 cents on each $100, distributed per capita of the school population. This fund might be increased by local funds, county taxes, and a special tax for school buildings. The University of Maryland was composed of St. Johns, Washington, the agricultural college, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, of Baltimore, governed by a board of regents and a university council. Free scholarships of $50 were established for State aid to college students. Schools for the children of colored citizens should be established by the city of Baltimore and each county, the taxes paid by the colored people to be added to the support by private funds until other arrangements could be made. All private and denominational schools should report statistics to the State board of education. It is unnecessary to remark that no State in the Union in 1864 was supporting a system of public schools so elaborate as that enacted by the legislature at the suggestion of its enthusiastic and devoted public servant. It will not be necessary to give in detail the results of the effort, continued during the following three years of what is known as the “ reconstruction period,” by the legislature to put this school law in force, with the inevitable failure to accomplish the great reform anticipated. The movement did undoubtedly wake up the educational public of the State to the importance of popular education as never before, while at the same time exciting to unusual activity the considerable body of influential citizens opposed to any serious change in the former educational policy of the Commonwealth.

One important act of the State board during this period was the appointment of Dr. McFadden Alexander Newell as principal of the proposed State normal school. In September, 1865, the attempt was made for the opening of the State normal school. Meanwhile Professor Newell, the principal-elect, visited the principal normal schools of the Northeastern States and labored intelligently to draft a plan suitable for Maryland. It was determined to furnish tuition and text-books to the students free of charge, and plans were considered for student aid. The State board proceeded to rent rooms and began the work. Doctor Newell's introductory report fully sets forth the situation in respect to the importance of a competent teaching force in the State. The State superintendent calls attention to the fact that despite all efforts at a solution “the schools of Baltimore city are conducted in direct opposition to the act of the general assembly. In almost every particular the school system of Baltimore was as thoroughly disconnected from the State board of education as from that of Virginia.” The city authorities on education, with but one dissenting vote, had resolved that no change be made in the public schools of the city. The superintendent advised that the term of office of the Baltimore school commissioners be extended to four years and that they be appointed by the State board of education. He also recommended the appointment of a city superintendent of schools. He urged that the existing agricultural college of the State, which was deeply involved in debt, should be reorganized and the offer of public lands by the National Government for the establishment of agricultural and manufacturing colleges be accepted. He presented the claims of the colored children and youth, one-fourth the entire school population of the State, to participation in the benefits of the present system of public instruction. The great prevalence of the colored population of the Eastern Shore and southern counties of the State, for whom no provision was made, wrought a manifest injustice, by the appropriation of large sums of school money to these counties used only for a minority of white pupils.

The total assessment of 21 counties and the county of Baltimore in Maryland for 1865 was $278,512,186, of which the city of Baltimore reported $129,199,817. The levy of the State school tax was $417,798.45. The school population between 5 and 20 years was 182,205 white and 60,014 colored; total, 248,219. In several counties, mostly in the northern part of the State, the success of the schools was already assured, and in even the less hopeful districts their advocates reported progress and declared: “A good school in any district for a year is generally a decisive agency of universal education, and not unfrequently the most violent enemies are won over to the warm advocacy of the system.” Outside the city of Baltimore 44,328 pupils were enrolled in all the counties, with no statement of the average daily attendance.

The State normal school was opened in Baltimore on July 15, 1866. A school building was rented and a house for the model and practice school. Eleven students appeared at the opening, all but one from Baltimore. At the commencement 48 had entered, one-third from the counties. Sixteen graduated at the commencement in June, 40 teachers of grammar and 12 of primary schools. In September, 1866, 48 appeared, and by December 20, 71 were on the rolls and 65 in constant attendance.

The five collegiate institutes, included under the general term “The University of Maryland,” received a sum of $14,200 for the free tuition of 120 young men and 22 young women. St. John's College, at Annapolis, had been revised and Dr. Henry Barnard, of Connecticut, invited to its presidency. The Baltimore Female College was established in 1849, with a building accommodating 100 boarders and 100 day pupils, and a course of study equivalent to that of a college for young men. The central high school for boys, of Baltimore, had extended its curriculum to include a full college course under the title " The Free College of Baltimore City." The Maryland Institute supplied a variety of schools for instruction in penmanship, drawing, and music, and had a library of 19,000 volumes, supplied courses of lectures for its several hundred active members, and especially was known for its department of design. It was considered worthy to be classed among the universities and colleges and received a yearly subsidy of $3,000.

In 1867 the public schools showed an increase from 1866 in average attendance, 6,138; in number of teachers, 132; in teachers' salaries, $48,577.12; in total cost of schools, $47,197.98. Forty-five new schoolhouses had been built, 75 repaired, and 31 furnished with desks, besides a large number under contract. The entire school revenue for the year ending June 30, 1867, was $530,460.66. The schools of Baltimore report 19,955 pupils enrolled, with 15,785 in attendance, 460 teachers, total expenditures $195,829.16, at a cost of $17.64 per capita. From 1861 to 1867 the expenditures for public education in the State had risen from $193,978 to $460,856. The number of women teachers was increasing, in 1867 there being only 276 more men than women. There were 122 students at the Baltimore Female College. In 1867 the normal school for teachers of colored schools had been established at Baltimore, housed in a large building. The colored public schools of the city were adopted by the city council in 1867 and were placed under the supervision of the city school commissioners. High scho Is had been established in three counties and free schools of an intermediate grade in one.

In 1867, by the adoption of a new State constitution, the public school system was declared at an end with the close of the coming legislative session, and it depended on this body to reestablish" a thorough and efficient system” in its place.

So far the first serious attempt to establish a complete system of public schooling even for the white children of Maryland had been carried forward under prodigious difficulties. By a change in the political attitude of the Commonwealth a new constitution was formed in September, 1867, which contained the following brief provisions for general education, under which the free schools of Maryland have been developed to their present condition during the past thirty

six years:

ARTICLE VIII.- Education,

[ocr errors]

SEC. 1. The general assembly, at its first session after the adoption of this constitution, shall by law establish throughout the State a thorough and efficient system of free public schools, and shall provide by taxation or otherwise for their maintenance.

SEC. 2. The system of public schools, as now constituted, shall remain in force until the end of the said first session of the general assembly, and shall then expire, except so far as adopted or continued by the general assembly.

SEC. 3. The school fund of the State shall be kept inviolate, and appropriated only to the purposes of education.

In one respect the new deal in public education was a decided step forward. The appointment of Dr. M. A. Newell as State superintendent of education and principal of the State normal school was a most fortunate movement.

McFadden Alexander Newell was born in Belfast, Ireland, September 7, 1824. He attended Queen's College, Belfast, and was graduated from Trinity College, Dublin, when he was 21 years old. After teaching two years in Mechanics’ Institute, Liverpool, he came to the United States and, in a short time, located in Baltimore, Md.

His first important position in Baltimore was professor of natural sciences in the City College—the high school for boys—which position he resigned to accept a professorship in Madison College, Uniontown, Pa. He returned to Baltimore in a few years and established a private school, which was largely patronized until the outbreak of the civil war, when Mr. Newell accepted the principalship of one of the largest grammar schools in the city. He went, subsequently, to Pittsburg, Pa., and, in connection with his cousins John and James Newell, established a large and influential private school. Here he remained until 1865, when he was appointed principal of the Maryland State Normal School, recently established by act of the legislature. Three years later he was appointed secretary of the State board of education and became ex officio superintendent of public instruction. He died at Havre de Grace August 14, 1893.

Superintendent Newell in his first report described the method by which, in September, 1857, the public schools entered on their work in a state of absolute uncertainty concerning the outcome of the general assembly in 1868. The new superintendent at once called attention to the central fact in any attempt to establish a system of common schools—the absolute need of a trained and competent body of teachers. In addition to the State Normal School he proposes an educational journal, teachers' associations, and institutes. He held institutes in fifteen counties during his first year's administration, and soon became in demand in the neighboring States of Virginia and North Carolina for this service. He also called attention to the irregular attendance of pupils on the school: “Not quite half of the children between 13 and 18 years of age are enrolled, and of them only about one-half in average attendance." As an educator in Maryland for more than twenty years he also claims the right to criticise the new school laws, especially in their failure to locate responsibility anywhere in the administration of the school system. In the reaction from the highly concentrated scheme of public schooling for 1864, the present legislature had vibrated to the opposite extreme. The State board of education had been abolished and the President of the State Normal School was burdened with a vast and indefinite duty of supervising the entire public school system of the State, according to him, now organized on the plan of locating authority nowhere. In short, the superintendent found in his new department of duty a legislature that represented a public · sentiment which favored a tendency to dissipate rather than to concentrate power

in all public affairs. He recommended: (1) A State board of education composed of the governor, the chairman of the committees on education in both houses of the legislature, the principal of the State Normal School, and a member chosen by the faculties of the three State colleges from among their own number. (2) The school trustees of the districts should be appointed by the county board of education instead of being elected by the people. (3) There should be a competent State superintendent appointed, authorized to spend his time among the schools. (4) There should be only one school commissioner for eight schools and the term of service be four years.

The State Normal School was growing apace. In January, 1869, there were 118 students, 90 in average attendance, representing 22 counties and the city of Baltimore. A rise in the standard of admission reduced the number of graduates so that 81 had fallen away during the past three years.

But to offset all these defects the superintendent congratulates the State on the fact that " after a long and weary waiting they are now in possession of a school, system which, though still imperfect, possesses one good element without which improvement is impossible. A system of free public schools, supported and superintended by the State, is now a part of the settled policy of the Commonwealth which no change of political parties will in all human probability ever disturb."

The Baltimore City superintendent of public schools, Mr. W. R. Crary, reports 120 schools, 550 teachers, 10,480 free and 12,297 paying tuition-22,777 in all-an increase of 1,625; 1,312 in the colored schools; $108,558.24 total expenditure, $22,166.66 for colored pupils. The public school system of the city of Baltimore dated from the year 1849, with 1,840 pupils, and by gradual development in 1868 had reached 104 schools and 5,300 pupils.

The history of the following seven years of the school administration, 1868-1875, under such superintendency as Doctor Newell in addition to his severe labors as principal of the State Normal School could give, is a record of substantial progress achieved under great difficulties. By perpetual appeals to the legislature the school law of 1868 was repeatedly amended, generally for the better, but only by gradual efforts brought to a state of real efficiency. By a new school law passed in 1870 the general supervision of the schools was given to a board of State commissioners, consisting of four persons appointed by the governor from among the presidents and examiners of the several county boards, and the principal of the State Normal School.

The county boards of commissioners after 1871 were to be appointed by the judge of the circuit courts instead of elected by the people, and their number was reduced to three in the smaller and five in the larger counties. The local trustees, styled district school commissisoners, were appointed by the board of county school commissioners instead of being elected by the people. The county tax which the county board had the right to distribute was limited to 10 cents on a hundred dollars, and beyond that the county commissioners must be consulted respecting additional taxation. By a number of amendments to the school law in 1873 (1) the governor was made ex officio a member of the State board of education; (2) the State board was authorized to enact by-laws for the administration of the public school system, to remove incompetent teachers or examiners, and to add to the studies in which the teachers were to be examined for first and second class certificates such other branches as might be necessary; (3) teachers appointed by the district trustees must be confirmed by the county board; (4) the appropriation for the colored schools of the State was raised from $50,000 to $100,000; (5) $100,000 was appropriated for a State normal school building, and (6) six counties were aided by the change of an academy to a public high school. The State board at once adopted a code of by-laws providing (1) for a new system of classification and a regular schedule of study from the rural, primary, and the lower classes of

« PreviousContinue »