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This downward turn of the curve of school legislation may meet the approval of a considerable group of people, for there are considerable numbers who seem to believe that there is already too much law. The proposition that there is already too much law on the statute books is worth brief examination in relation to school laws. It is one which carries some truth, but also a measure of error. In the sense that the laws contain too many prohibitions and restrictions, there is considerable truth in the proposition; but law does not merely prohibit or restrict; it promotes, conserves, guarantees, and protects. In these positive and constructive aspects of the law, there can hardly be an excess. Again, in the sense that statutes are often prolix, and characterized by duplication or needless repetition, it may be said that there is too much law; but these qualities relate to the style in which the statute is written rather than to the nature of the law itself. Still a third sense in which we possibly have too much law is that in some State codes or compiled statutes obsolete and useless provisions are left; the “ dead wood” has not been cut away; but here again the fault is of the nature of a fault in style, or perhaps the code commission or other agency designated to codify the statutes has not been given sufficient authority to eliminate obsolete and useless provisions.
As regards school law, therefore, it can not be admitted that there is too much. So long as the public school systems of States remain below standard, as many of them still are, there will be need for more and better means of improvement; and additional or better laws will be necessary to provide more school funds, increase the school term, provide a properly trained teacher for every schoolroom, and insure the attendance of every child at a school suited to his capacity. Until these things are accomplished, the theory that there is too much school law will be untenable.
NEW SCHOOL CODES
One of the most important educational acts that a State legislature may pass is a complete codification of all its public school laws, written as a single bill and passed as an act establishing it as the code of schools laws of the State. Generally speaking, the enactment of a new school code should have one or both of two purposes:
1. To secure proper arrangement of the law and the elimination of inconsistencies, duplication, and the like.
2. To embody in the new law such organic and substantive changes as may at the time be desirable.
Wherever it is proposed to adopt a new school code, both of these purposes will suggest themselves. In some cases it will be found advisable to try to accomplish both, and in others, only the first mentioned. To include much organic or substantive change in a pro
posed school code will endanger its acceptance by the legislature. In such a case it is advisable to make of the proposed code only a recodification of existing laws. If nothing more than proper arrangement and coordination can be accomplished at one time, the trial is worth the effort in a number of States whose school laws have not been codified in recent years.
Since 1900, 22 States have either adopted complete recodifications of their respective bodies of school law or amended their laws so generally as to reach “ school code” proportions. The first State in the list was New Jersey. The legislature of that State in 1903 passed "An act to establish a thorough and efficient system of free public schools, and to provide for the maintenance, support, and management thereof." Other important enactments of cocles within this 24-year period were those of New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Delaware, West Virginia, Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Montana, and Washington.
In the period under review three States adopted new school codes or bodies of school law comparable with complete coles. These were North Carolina and New Mexico in 1923 and Mississippi in 1924.
The new code of North Carolina is divided into 14 " parts," comprising 40 “ articles," and is a complete recodification of the State's school laws, except that the laws defining the powers and duties of the State board of education and the superintendent of public instruction, which were not by it amended or revised, were not included in the new code. The codification therefore begins with certain "interpretations” and the county board of education, and thence proceeds through the rest of the school system. This law exemplifies both of the purposes referred to above—that is, it at once rearranges the body of school law and embodies important substantive changes. County school organization is not materially changed; county boards of education are still chosen by the State legislature, and the county superintendent is appointed by the county board. The more important substantive changes were the revision of the system of county school budgets, the provision for a “county-wide plan" for the consolidation of schools, the creation of " special taxing districts” designed to facilitate consolidation, and the amendment generally of the local tax laws. The county remains the unit of local school administration, but cities and “special charter districts” retain their former independence.
The new school code of New Mexico, like that of North Carolina, is at once a rearrangement and a revision of several organic or substantive provisions. It is marked by brevity, and in consequence omits some matters which other States include in their school codes. Some of its more noteworthy provisions are the abolishment of the county board of education and the substitution of the board of county commissioners, the provision for the appointment. (after January 1, 1925) of the county superintendent of schools by the commissioners acting as a county board of education, and the establishment of an elaborate system of school budgeting.
Mississippi's school code, adopted in 1924, is of the kind which is designed primarily as a rearrangement and proper codification of the existing body of school law. It contains few organic changes. Prior to 1924 the pamphlet of-school laws published by this State was a mere collection of chapters of legislation passed at different times and of provisions relating to education as they appeared in the general code. The legislature of 1924 arranged this miscellaneous collection in a single act, with major divisions as chapters and minor divisions as sections, numbered consecutively, and in this rearranged body of law there emerged a creditable “school code," particularly as regards form.
EDUCATIONAL SURVEYS The educational survey has been much discussed and widely used in all sections of the country. In some cases there have been marked benefits to the schools of the State, city, or other unit surveyed; in other cases no very noticeable benefits have immediately resulted. From the standpoint of the reviewer of legislation only the Statewide survey is of much interest, since this is the kind of study that usually recommends legislation and often results in the passage of new laws.
Four States provided by law in 1923 for State educational surveys, and one made similar provision in 1924.
Illinois was one of the States of the first group. By act of June 28, 1923, the Illinois Legislature created a survey commission to be composed of the governor, two members of the senate, two members of the house of representatives, and two citizens appointed by the governor. This commission was authorized to investigate the entire educational system of the State, including school costs, the training of teachers, and the higher institutions, and was directed to report to the legislature of 1925. An appropriation of $15,000 was made.
A concurrent resolution of the North Dakota Legislature of 1923 authorized the governor to appoint a commission of five members to be known as the “ School finance and administration commission," which was directed “ to make as thorough and comprehensive a study, investigation, and analysis of the whole problem of school finance, school taxation, and school administration as possible.” This survey was proposed in the interest of economy in the conduct of the schools,
and the commission was directed to report not later than September 1, 1924. The concurrent resolution carried no appropriation.
The Texas educational survey, a third one provided for in 1923, was likewise to be an investigation of the entire public school system. The act provided for the appointment of a commission and for the employment by the commission of a survey director and staff of assistants to conduct the survey. The commission was directed to make its report on or before December 1, 1924. An appropriation of $50,000 was made to defray the expenses incurred.
A West Virginia act, approved May 1, 1923, created a “public school commission " of seven members to be appointed by the governor. The commission was "to study and investigate the laws and conditions in this State relating to the public-school system and report the results of its investigations, together with its recommendations, to the next session of the legislature.” The act itself carried no appropriation, but in the appropriation bill the sum of $15,000 was allowed for the expenses of the survey.
The act of 1924 which provided for a survey was that of Mississippi. It is entitled “ An act providing for an educational survey of the State schools and colleges of the State of Mississippi.” A limit of $10,000 was placed on the cost of the survey, and it was provided that the expense“ be paid out of the regular 1924-25 appropriations to the university and colleges on a percentage basis, each institution paying in proportion to its appropriation."
STATE DEPARTMENTS OF EDUCATION
Two phases of State school administration have been much in public print in recent years, and a large body of legislation or proposed legislation has related to them. These are (1) the composition and organization of the State board of education and (2) the method of choosing the chief State school officer.
The brief statement below shows the principal facts relative to the composition of State boards. Number of general State boards of education.-------Boards composed wholly of ex officio members -
From the practice in the several States as indicated by this statement, a reasonably well-defined standard appears. The average State board of education is composed of seven or eight members, a majority of whom are appointed and a minority of whom attain membership by virtue of holding other offices; the board is in whole or in part appointed by the governor; and terms are for 6 years and overlap. :
It will be seen that the practice in the States is approaching the standard generally accepted by authorities on school administration. However, there is still too much ex officio membership, and the method of selection has the disapproval of what is probably a considerable group of persons who believe that the State board of education, being a legislative body, should be chosen by the people. With respect to ex officio membership, it may be said that this kind of board tends to be displaced by one composed of non ex officio members chosen for their ability, integrity, and interest in education.
The highest class of men in the State can be induced to accept a place on the State board of education if men of like class are placed on the board with them and if they see a real duty to do or function to perform. Ex officio membership is therefore unnecessary; and, moreover, members of this kind rarely function properly. The attorney general, secretary of state, or other State officer is concerned with other affairs, his interests are elsewhere, and usually he neglects his educational connection.
As regards the best method of selecting the State board of education, it must be said that the prevailing practice at present is appointment of the members, or a majority of them, by the governor of the State. Possibly there will be a growth of sentiment in favor of popular election when the board's functions as a legislative body are better understood, but for the present, at least, the appointive board prevails decisively.
Present practice in the States with respect to the manner of choosing the chief State school officer deserves some notice here. This offices is elected by popular vote in 32 States; he is appointed by the Governor in 6 States and by the State board of education in 8 States. It will be observed that these three groups total only 46. In Idaho and Wyoming there is both a superintendent of public instruction and a State commissioner of education. In each of these cases the superintendent is elected by popular vote and the commissioner is appointed by the State board.
The prevailing practice is election by popular vote. The prevailing opinion among authorities on the subject is that the office should be an appointive one. A difference, therefore, exists between theory and practice. Some States have displaced popular election with