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THE FREE TEXTBOOK MEASURES.
Bill and Constitutional Amendment Were Defeated in the Senate After Having Passed the Lower House.
Labor suffered the first of its two important defeats before the 1911 Legislature, in the failure of all proposed legislation to provide for furnishing the children of the public schools with free textbooks.
Labor is thoroughly committed to this principle. The policy has been endorsed by the American Federation of Labor, and by the California State Federation. The Labor legislative representatives went to Sacramento instructed to support free textbook measures.803
Several such measures were introduced, but the two over which the fight was made, were Assembly bill
303 In the report on Labor Legislation of the 1911 session, issued by the California State Federation, the failure to adopt Assembly Constitutional Amendment 16, the Free Text Book amendment, is made subject of special comment.
The Senate vote by which the amendment was refused adoption is given, and is followed by this comment:
"It will be noted that seven San Francisco Senators voted against this measure, which is a part of the platform of the American Federation of Labor, and was endorsed by the convention of the California State Federation of Labor."
The seven San Francisco Senators referred to were Beban, Cassidy, Finn, Hare, Regan, Welch and Wolfe.
Beban, in 1907 and in 1909, was elected to the Assembly as a Union Labor party candidate. Finn, Hare, Welch and Wolfe, when they were elected to the Senate in 1909, had Union Labor party endorsements, and owed their several elections largely to such endorsements.
113,804 introduced by Smith of Alameda, and Assembly Constitutional Amendment No. 16,805 introduced by Telfer of San Jose.
In the Assembly there was practically no opposition offered either the Smith bill or the Telfer amendment.
The Smith bill passed the Assembly by a vote of 67 to 1, Chandler of Fresno being the only member to vote in the negative. The Telfer amendment was adopted without a vote being cast against it, while fifty-seven Assemblymen, including Chandler, voted for it.
The appearance of the measures in the Senate, however, marked the beginning of opposition which event
304 Assembly bill 113 provided that:
"The county superintendent of schools of each county shall each year prepare and forward to the State superintendent of public instruction a written requisition for all State school textbooks required to be used in the common schools in such county for the following year; such books shall thereupon be forwarded to him at such address or addresses in the county as he may designate before the opening of the following school year, and the cost price of such books at Sacramento together with the cost of transportation shall be paid out of the common school funds of such county upon the order of the county board of education. Such books shall be distributed to the several common schools of the county in charge of the principal of such school and shall remain the property of the county for the use of the pupils of the several common schools thereof without cost to such pupils or their parents or guardians, under such rules as shall be adopted from time to time by the county board of education."
805 Assembly Constitutional Amendment 16 provided that: "The State Board of Education shall compile, or cause to be compiled, and adopt, a uniform series of text-books for use in the common schools throughout the State. The State board may cause such text-books, when adopted, to be printed and published by the superintendent of State printing, at the State printing office, and when so printed and published, they shall be distributed, free of cost, to all children attending the common schools of this State, under such conditions as the Legislature shall prescribe. The text-books so adopted shall continue in use not less than four years without any change whatsoever; and said State board shall perform such other duties as may be prescribed by law. The Legislature shall provide for a board of education in each county in the State. The county superintendents and the county boards of education shall have control of the examination of teachers and the granting of teachers' certificates within their respective jurisdictions."
ually resulted in their defeat.306 The measures were opposed in the Senate Committee on Education to which they were referred; they were opposed on the floor of the Senate.
The Committee flatly recommended that the Smith bill be defeated; while it took a non-committal attitude on the Telfer amendment, sending it back to the Senate "without recommendation."
Even with an adverse committee report against it, the Smith bill came within four votes of passage in the Senate, receiving seventeen votes to nineteen cast against it.307 Thus in a Legislature of 120 members, eighty-four voted for the Smith Free Textbook bill, twenty against, while sixteen did not vote at all. But had the sixteen voted against the bill, then only thirty-six votes would have been registered against it to eighty-four for it. But the eighty-four votes for it were not distributed in the right way, and the twenty negative votes cast, and the sixteen possibly negative votes not cast at all, defeated the purpose of this overwhelming majority of the
306 Some of the arguments used against the measure were curious, in view of the American notion that the State owes every child a free education. For example:
Senator Eddie Wolfe stated before the Senate Committee on Education, when the Smith bill was under consideration, that he opposed the free text-book bill because he believed American boys and girls should not be taught to accept charity.
Assemblyman Smith very pertinently replied that all other parts of the school system are accepted as the children's right, and that free text-books would not be charity.
307 The Senate vote, by which the Smith bill (A. B. 113) was defeated was as follows:
For the bill-Birdsall, Boynton, Caminetti, Curtin, Cutten, Estudillo, Hans, Hewitt, Hurd, Juilliard, Larkins, Lewis, Rush Shanahan Stetson, Walker, and Wright-17.
Against the bill-Avey, Beban, Bell, Bills, Black, Bryant, Cassidy, Finn, Gates, Hare, Holohan, Martinelli, Regan, Roseberry, Strobridge, Thompson, Tyrrell, Welch, and Wolfe-19.
Legislature. The Free Textbook bill did not become a law.
The vote on the Telfer amendment was even more significant. Being a Constitutional Amendment, a twothirds vote of the Senate was required for its adoption and submission to The People.308 Thus the votes of twenty-seven of the forty Senators were required for favorable action.
The amendment was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 16 to 11.809
As has been seen, in the Assembly, fifty-seven members voted for this amendment, while not a member voted against it. Thus out of 120 members of the Legislature, seventy-three voted for the amendment, and only eleven against, while thirty-six did not vote. But forty-seven out of 120 members-eleven of whom voted and thirtysix who did not vote at all-blocked the purpose of seventy-three. The People of California were denied the
308 Smith in his "The Spirit of American Government," says: "All democratic constitutions are flexible and easy to amend. This follows from the fact that in a government which The People really control, a constitution is merely the means of securing the supremacy of public opinion and not an instrument for thwarting
it. Such a constitution cannot be regarded as a check upon the people themselves. It is a device for securing to them that necessary control over their agents and representatives, without which popular government exists only in name. A government is democratic just in proportion as it responds to the will of the people; and since one way of defeating the will of The People is to make it difficult to alter the form of government, it necessarily follows that any constitution which is democratic in spirit, must yield readily to changes in public opinion."
309 The vote by which the Free Text-book amendment (A. C. A. 16) was defeated was as follows:
For the amendment-Avey, Bills, Boynton, Caminetti, Cutten, Estudillo, Hewitt, Juilliard, Lewis, Rush, Sanford, Shanahan, Stetson, Strobridge, Walker and Wright-16.
Against the amendment-Beban, Bell, Cassidy, Finn, Gates, Hare, Holohan, Martinelli, Regan, Welch, and Wolfe-11.