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board; that the people in the various sections are interested in having their school personally supervised by some one of their own choice; that the small board is apt to be aristocratic, autocratic, and one that represents certain sections only; that the methods of delegating superintendence and executive power to one or two officers is subversive of democracy and destructive to “the bulwarks of American liberty," etc., etc.
Whilst the testimony and experience of the best educators and the best governed schools have driven this matter beyond the
pale of discussion, it is but fair to set down a The Small
few reasons for departing from the old, large, Board Elected
ward-elected board to the body composed of a at Large
few men, chosen from the city as a whole. I. “ The members of the school board should be representative of the whole population and all of their common educational interests, and should not be chosen to represent any ward, subdivision or territory. Large boards with district representation present the appearance of a legislature, with parliamentary procedure, floods of oratory, log-rolling, and interference with executive officers which eventually destroys their good intention. Civic matters of management and discipline, which could have been settled in five minutes by a superintendent have been fought out on the low plane of party politics and have too often been settled by party vote.”
2. "A large board necessarily results in government by numerous committees. By no possibility can the whole board formulate a solid policy of administration."
3. District representation means ward politics. The voter with the best of intentions will care little for the election of even a good man when the latter's vote is but one out of fifteen or twenty, or, as was formerly the case in Philadelphia, one out of five hundred and forty-six. Selection at large will tend more and more to exclude “undesirable citizens " and where from five to ten men are to be chosen without reference to ward lines, it is easily seen that the school board, coming so close to the people as it does, will receive och attention from the voter as it never had before.
3a. “One of the chief objections to district or ward representation in a large city is that the school board becomes itself a school-a school for climbing for ambitious politicians. In many cities, it is the first round in the ladder for a young man to show his ability in the art of securing popularity and votes. The report from Cincinnati, for instance, disclosed a long list of prominent office-holders, graduated from that school: a county clerk, a county solicitor, an assistant county solicitor, a United States revenue collector, a clerk of the police court, a justice of the peace, a deputy sheriff, a state fire commissioner, a custodian of the city hall, a United States gauger, a postmaster, a probate judge, a common pleas judge, a superintendent of the board of health, a superintendent of the city water-works, a state senator, a lieutenant-governor, and many others."
4. "A necessary concomitant of the small board at large is the delegation of three or four executives as the real management or superintendents of the schools. It is another angle of the socalled “ Federal System” or commission plan of municipal government. To be sure, a well-ordered merit system is an absolutely indispensable corollary of the plan. The whole conception makes for solidarity, efficiency, centralization of responsibility, and—most important-publicity.”
Of course it is to be deeply borne in mind that the intelligent interest of the public in the schools is the sine qua non of efficiency. To quote from the report from Indianapolis: "After all, the machinery is of little value; it is of little moment how stringent the provisions of the act may be if the right sort of men do not occupy the offices. Behind the act there is no law so stringent that its provisions may not be evaded. An able board of school commissioners may, under this law, accomplish great results, whilst on the other hand, a board of different character may soon ruin the standard of the schools." The fact remains that almost in every instance where the change has been made from the old system to the new, tremendous results have been brought about. In nearly every case the personnel of the board has been of a high grade. Personally, I believe that this is due, in some degree, to the agitation attendant upon the securing of the passage of the law. Whether it will be possible to return to poor management, politics and corruption under the new system after the enthusiasm has grown cold, is a matter of speculation. There is certainly no magic in forms or charters, as Dr. Felix Adler so brilliantly pointed out at the New York meeting of the League. But in the first place, the education that the voter has received is bound in some particular to stick and, in the second place, I do believe that the new system furnishes the one allimportant advantage which flows from the better focusing of the attention of the public on the dogma of the school board.
As I have stated, authority and experience seem to unite in declaring for the small board chosen from the city at large. The
first question of detail is as to the manner of Method of
selection. There is a great variety of opinion on Selecting Board
this point, ranging between election by the people and appointment by the governor of the state. In Philadelphia, the school board is appointed by the judges of the Court of Common Pleas, although in the opinion of the Philadelphia subcommittee, election by the people is preferred. In Baltimore, St. Paul, and some other cities, the mayor appoints the board of education, and the appointees are said to be in all cases satisfactory. In Indianapolis and St. Louis, they have a bi-partisan board. In the cities mentioned so far, the board of education has been efficient. In Louisville, where the school administration seems to be admitted even by the committee from Louisville to be the worst in the United States, the board is elected by districts, and by viva voce vote, though the ballots for every other office except that of school board is a secret ballot.
The conclusion of the committee seems to be in favor of the election of the board by the people. It may be asked, inasmuch
as the reformers of city government in general Committee
are fast moving to that method of administration Favors Election
known as the “federal system ", whereby the by the People
mayor alone is elected and all heads of departments are appointed, why depart from this system in case of school control? Why not have the school board appointed by the mayor? True enough, there is something of a paradox in favoring the small school board with delegation of complete executive power to salaried officers, which is itself a recognition of the federal system, and in the same breath advocating a de
parture from the federal system in not allowing the mayor to appoint as he appoints other administrative officers of government. But it is only a paradox, and not an inconsistency. There do seem to be cogent reasons why the school board should be elected and not appointed.
The theory upon which the federal system is based is that the more centralized the control and the fewer persons made responsible to the people for good results in government, the better focalized will be the central point to which the attention of the people will be called and thereby their interest retained. But of course even in the minds of those who favor the federal system, there are doubts as to the eventual outcome. We believe that experience will prove that the federal or commission plan is the best to advertise the merits or demerits of city government, but we know that accidents may happen. Even with the safeguard of the merit system, it may happen once in a while that owing to a possible lack in civic interest a thoroughly bad mayor will get himself elected. The election of such a man may result in the selection of heads of departments which will prove very destructive to the city. In the case of the schools, there is a special appeal to the voter's heart that is unlike any other civic emotion. In this matter it is not with him so much a question of reason as one of sentiment. It is a great thing to tie to—this desire of the ordinary American citizen to protect the children and to give them a good education. It is indeed an effective sphere to begin work in a city overpowered with corrupt politicians—for that very reason. Inasmuch therefore as there are possible evils attendant on this wide extent of power given to the mayor under the federal system for general municipal government, may we not say that in the case of the school board at least we can by popular election escape these evils and still gain our object of focusing public attention on the office by force of this popular sentiment? In other words, although the scheme of the federal system should obtain in the internal management of the schools, let us make the schools a department of government independent of the regular city system.
We now come to the question of the safeguards of such an election, a very important consideration. The freedom from
But it may
politics is the leitmotif running through the report. Of course
the ballot should be secret and they propose The Ballot
to make it so even in Louisville if they can secure a legislature to consider a very excellent bill which has been proposed for Kentucky. In the next place, if possible, the political parties should be discouraged from entering into the lists for school director. In St. Louis, they have a very odd situation in this respect. When the new school law was adopted in that city-and by the way it has been said to be the model law on the subject—by a sort of general agreement each political party placed only one-half of the number of members to be elected in nomination, with the understanding that all were to be elected. In other words, you have there a bi-partisan board by consent of the political parties. There can be no question that the board in St. Louis has done wonderful work. be the exception and not the rule. There ought to be a signpost on every road leading to better municipal government warning passers-by against the bi-partisan board. We have had them in Cincinnati-not school boards, but other boards. It is one of the best methods a politician can invoke to fasten his hold on the city. In bi-partisan boards, it is never long before the dominant political party secures control of the members of the opposing party. The minority are apt to maintain their outward allegiance to their party, thus securing the right to remain in the board, and thereby fooling the people. If this is not the case, even then there is bound to occur the division of the spoils between the two parties-resulting in all manner of trading, and sometimes in a complete dead-lock of the affairs of the board.
The ballot should be non-partisan, not bi-partisan. In Ohio, we are especially well favored in that particular. Whilst the school board is elected at the same time as other city officers, the ballot is a separate ballot without party designation of any kind. All candidates, whether nominated by the conventions, or by direct primary, or by petition, are placed upon the first ballot in alphabetical order. There is then run off another ballot with the first name last, and then another with the second name last, and so on. These forms of ballots are then blocked together, no two of them alike in succession. In this way the illiterate