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APPENDIX No. V.
OUTLINE OF THE SYSTEM OF EDUCATION IN RHODE ISLAND.
The following outline is published as an answer to numerous enquiries relating to our system.
POPULATION. The population of the State is 147,549.
this, the city of Providence and the compact towns of Newport, Bristol and Warren, contain 58,795. And when to this is added the population of Woonsocket, East Greenwich, Wickford, Pawcatuck, Pawtucket, Pawtuxet, and the numerous manufacturing and other villages, it will be seen that by far the greater part of the population is in cities and villages.
The State is divided into five counties and thirty-one townships. In Providence, Newport, Bristol and Warren, the schools of the whole town are managed by Committees. The other twenty-seven townships are divided into schools districts, which are corporate bodies for school purposes.
SCHOOL OFFICERS.-Every city and town chooses annually a School Committee of not less than three persons, and they may appoint or authorise the committee to appoint a superintendent. The city of Providence and several of the towns employ superintendents.
In the four towns named, the Committees have the whole management of the schools. In other towns, they have the general su
pervision, make regulations, define district boundaries, examine teachers, visit the schools, receive and make returns, and pay the bills by orders on the treasury.
In the twenty-seven districted towns, each district chooses annually one or three trustees, a clerk, treasurer, collector, &c. The duty of the trustee is to employ the teacher, have the custody of the district property, to visit the school, &c.
The supervision of the State is exercised by means of a Commissioner of Public Schools, annually appointed by the Governor and Senate, and to whom an appeal may be taken from all doings of committees, trustees, and other school officers. There is a Board of Education. The duties and powers of these school officers may be seen more particularly by referring to the several heads in the Index to the School Law.
County Inspectors may be appointed by the Commissioner, who are authorised to examine teachers and to give certificates, which are valid in all the towns in their county. They have no compensation.
COMPENSATION.-The Committees and Trustees, generally, receive no compensation for services. Superintendents of towns are paid by the towns. The Commissioner's salary is paid from the State treasury.
SCHOOL FUND.-The State has a permanent fund invested in Bank Stock of $51,300.
When the State received its portion of the U. S. Surplus Revenue, it was also invested, and the annual income appropriated to Schools.
SUPPORT OF SCHOOLS.-From the interest of the School Fund, the U. S. Surplus Revenue, and other sources, the State appropriates $25,000, and from the proceeds of a direct tax $10,000-making in all $35,000 annually. This is apportioned among the townships in proportion to the population under 15. But in order to receive its portion, each town must raise at least one-third of its portion of the $25,000. Most of the towns raise a great deal more than the amount required.
In the twenty-seven districted towns the money is apportioned as follows: The money from the State is divided into two parts-one part is divided equally among the districts, as corporations. The other part is divided according to the average attendance in the districts the previous year. The money raised by the towns is divided by such rules as the towns or committees prescribe, generally equally. There is also a registry tax on voters, and the money received from this source is applied to support schools in the town where it is received.
The school districts can also raise money by direct property tax to support schools, or can make an assessinent on scholars who are able to pay. In the greater part of the districts the deficiency of the public money is supplied by assessments.
UNION DISTRICTS.-Ample provision is made by the law for the gradation of schools, and to encourage country districts to unite for the sake of supporting a higher school.
SCHOOL HOUSES.-In the four towns named, and also in one other, school houses are erected by the whole town for all the districts. In the other towns, each district, as a corporate body, manages its own affairs, chooses officers, lays taxes to build and repair houses, support schools, &c. Locations and plans of houses, and the amount of taxes, must be approved by the committees of the towns.
TEACHERS.-Committees can examine and give certificates for their towns, county Inspectors for their counties, and the Commissioner for the State. No teacher can be employed without a certifi
INSTITUTES.-Institutes are held at such places and times as the Commissioner decides. The expense is paid out of the State treas
LENGTH OF SCHOOLS.-In the compact places and villages in which so very large a portion of our population is concentrated, they are continued through the year. Each district is required to keep a school for four months, in order to receive its school money. The
country districts generally keep a school from six to eight months, part in the winter and part in the summer.
ACADEMIES AND COLLEGES.-These receive no aid from the State. There are several academies and high schools, some of which are incorporated. Brown University, at Providence, is an institution of long established reputation.
Deaf and Dumb, &c.-The State makes provision for the support and education of the indigent deaf and dumb, blind and idiots. The deaf and dumb have generally been sent to the Hartford Institution, and the blind and idiots to South Boston. Provision is also made by the State and towns for the support of the insane poor at the Butler Hospital for the Insane, at Providence.
LIBRARIES.-Towns or districts may raise money by tax for a School Library. And individuals may incorporate themselves by a provision in the School Law for this purpose. Under this provision a large number of associations have been formed. See the appendix No. 4 to this report.
THE time for the election of School Committees is drawing near. Those who are anxious to have good schools, should exert themselves to have a good committee elected. Keep the subject out of politics; and if you have a large committee, try at any rate, to have four of them, (a quorum,) so near to each other that they can meet often for the transaction of business.
The law requires every committee to make a report to the town. Do not let this be forgotten. Have it printed, and a copy of it sent
to every family in the town.
If it is a good report, no expenditure
of the same amount of money, will be more profitable.
The time for the election of trustees and district officers by the districts, is also near. Many districts still continue to elect annually one trustee to serve three years, according to the old law. According to the present law, a district may elect either one or three trustees, but for one year only. This provision of the law should be complied with; otherwise the district or its officers may be subjected to trouble and expense, by having the validity of their proceedings contested at law.
CONSTRUCTION OF THE SCHOOL LAWS.
A large number of the cases arising under the school laws are settled by advice, and without any formal decision; and in others the decision depends upon the equity of the case. But as the construction of the law, in several important particulars, was involved in the following appeal, it is published for general information: