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The biennium beginning July 1, 1918 and ending June 30, 1920, has been as abnormal in many respects as the previous biennium. The great appreciation in the cost of structural materials and labor checked when it did not completely stop the building program. Instead of . prices dropping at the close of the war, as was predicted, they continued to rise in most lines throughout the biennium. Every form of equipment used by the schools, with the one exception of school textbooks, was at its highest point at the close of this biennium. On the other hand the revenues for public education has not increased in anything like the same proportion. While the General Assembly in 1919 passed what was commonly known as the “Hick’s Bill,” which allowed boards of education to raise their rate for educational purposes one-third without a vote of the people and to double the amount for educational purposes when authorized by a vote of the people, and while the same session of the General Assembly increased the State distributive fund from four to six millions of dollars annually, these increased amounts did not enable boards of education to meet the rising prices of the commodities they had to buy. While the Legislature had changed the basis of taxation from one-third of a fair cash value to one-half of the fair cash value, the school rates had been changed to correspond to this change in the taxing basis. It did give one advantage—that of increasing the bonding power of school districts, but as very little building was being done this benefit was not felt. The shortage of local revenues was aggravated by the sale of government bonds. The more patriotic the people grew in putting their money in bonds, the less property there was available for local taxation.
The inadequate revenue situation has led the school officials throughout the State to organize a thoroughgoing campaign to secure relief from the next session of the General Assembly. There will be an asking for a great increase in the distributive fund to equalize educational opportunities throughout the State. A bill will be introduced empowering the larger cities, where the high schools and elementary schools are under the direction of one board, to levy a special tax for high school purposes when empowered so to do by a vote of the people.
The rapid extension of community high schools has brought the greatest immediate help in a revenue way. In four years under this law, over 230 of these districts have been formed. There were at the close of this biennium about 480 township and community high school districts. These districts by providing a method for raising revenues for maintaining the high schools, made it possible for the boards of education in charge of the elementary school districts to maintain their standards. Moreover, the establishment of the non-high school district over all territory not included in a township, a community, or a recog
nized high school district, relieved the elementary school districts in such territory of the financial burden of paying the tuition of the eighth grade graduates. About 99 per cent of the entire territory of Illinois, at the end of this biennium, was under an organization whereby the cost of maintaining the high schools or paying high school tuition was paid out of a tax levied in addition to the tax necessary for elementary school education. Without this double taxing arrangement the schools of Illinois would have suffered during this post-war biennium a more serious breakdown. During the biennium the State University and the normal schools have suffered for want of adequate revenues. At the close of the war the attendance upon the University almost doubled. There was an imperative demand for new quarters, new equipment, and new teaching force. The University authorities were able only through the severest economies and adjustments to complete the biennium. The Board of Trustees in charge of the University, has asked a large increase for the coming biennium, the total amount asked being about ten and a half millions of dollars. However, the normal schools were the division of public instruction which suffered most during the biennium. The board in charge of these five teacher-training institutions, asked of the Fifty-first General Assembly for the biennium adequate increases in their revenues to enable them to maintain their standards. Their estimates, however, were cut back to an amount which proved wholly impossible. There has been practically no improvement in the physical equipment, and the teaching force has suffered a serious breakdown. The city school systems and high schools offered better salaries than the normal schools could offer. Normal schools in other states had money sufficient to take away some of the best teachers. The only bright spot in an otherwise discouraging situation is that many of the very best teachers stayed with the institutions in spite of the financial loss which it entailed. The Normal School Board will make an extraordinary effort to see that these institutions are properly supplied with revenues for the next biennium. The only phase of public education which has expanded in a satisfactory way, has been the vocational education work. Here the State and Federal funds were used to encourage the establishment and maintenance of this work. Salaries sufficiently large could be offered to attract and hold the best teachers. The community consolidated law, passed by the Fifty-first General Assembly, has been used to establish over fifty community consolidated districts. It is believed that these schools will offer a high grade of education peculiarly suited to the communities concerned. While the bill establishing a truant officer had a constitutional weakness in it, the most of the counties of the State availed themselves of its provisions. There is reason to believe that the average daily attendance in these counties will show results of the establishment of this office. The details of the administration of the public school system during this biennium, are amply covered in the details of this biennial report. F. G. BLAIR, Superintendent.