Friday, October 23, 2009

The long view of our challenges

At the Rose symposium, Deb Dawahare shared a article that gives wonderful context both to the litigation twenty years ago and our current challenges. Reformatted only to add paragraph breaks and bullets, here's that report:
An Educational Convention is to be held in Frankfort for the purpose of securing a more efficient public school system than the present one, which was established by the legislative act of Feb. 16, 1839, with a financial foundation of $850,000, increased in 1848 to $1,225,768.42, and in 1850 to $1,326,770.01. The school tax is 22 cents on the $100, and provision is made for an optional district tax of 25 cents on the $100 in ordinary districts and 30 cents in graded school districts. It is proposed to make the machinery of common education more effective and diffusive.

The defects of the present system are, in part, as follows:

  • The Sheriffs are too tardy in the collection of the school tax;
  • The teachers are poorly paid, and many of them are poorly qualified;
  • The law does not absolutely require a common school to be taught during five months in the year in any district;
  • The people are woefully indifferent in two-thirds of the counties of the State to the importance of common schools;
  • There is a painful lack of normal school instruction;
  • The School Commissioners are, in a majority of cases, not qualified to hold these important positions;
  • The State per capita is always an uncertain and variable quantity;
  • The school-houses are largely in a poor condition;
  • There are many districts without any kind of school-houses;
  • Most of the school districts are too large and the school-houses inaccessible to many children, especially in the mountain districts;
  • The text-books are changed too often and cost too much;
  • The schools do not get all the revenue to which they are legitimately entitled, as from the tax on railroads and turnpikes now diverted;
  • No effort has been made to secure new sources of revenue.

The Frankfort convention must grapple with these defects. The foundation of the school system have been laid 45 years; the building has been slowly rising. The bad bricks must come out the walls; the whole people of Kentucky must be put to work on those walls with a will.

That ran in the New York Times on March 30, 1883, having appeared earlier in the Courier-Journal, and the similarities to our current predicament do indeed loom larger than than the differences.

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