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PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM OF CALIFORNIA.
THE foundation of the public school system of California was laid in the Constitutional Convention held in Monterey, September, 1849.
The Select Committee on the State Constitution reported, in Committee of the Whole, in favor of appropriating the five hundred thousand acres of land granted by Congress to new States for the purpose of internal improvements, to constitute a perpetual School Fund, with a proviso, however, that the Legislature might appropriate the revenue so derived to other purposes if the exigencies of the State required it. An animated debate occurred on this proviso, in which Mr. Sherwood of Sacramento, and Mr. Jones of San Joaquin, were the principal speakers in favor of it; and Mr. Semple of Sonoma, and Mr. McCarver, opposed to it. The proviso was stricken out by the close vote of eighteen ayes to seventeen noes, thus securing an inviolable fund for school purposes. In the progress of the debate Mr. Semple spoke as follows:
"This is a subject upon which I have thought probably more than upon any other subject that has ever engrossed my attention. I regard it as a subject of peculiar importance here in California, from our location and the circumstances under which we are placed, the immense value of our lands, and the extent and wealth of the country. I think that here, above all places in the Union, we
should have, and we possess the resources to have, a well-regulated system of education.
"It is the duty of members of this House to unite together and secure that reputation, character and ability in our public teachers which can only be obtained by a liberal and permanent fund. It is the basis of a well-regulated school system that it shall be uniform throughout the State; that any surplus funds collected in one district shall not be appropriated in that district, but that the aggregate fund from all the districts shall be appropriated strictly to school purposes, and distributed equally throughout the State.
"We should therefore carefully provide that this fund shall be used for no other purpose."
A section providing that a school should be kept in each district at least three months in each year, in order to secure any share of the State Fund, was adopted; an amendment by Mr. Hastings, to insert "six" months instead of "three," having been rejected.
SIXTEENTH AND THIRTY-SIXTH SECTIONS.
Mr. Semple, of Sonoma, whose opinions on school matters seem to have been remarkably clear and correct, moved, as a substitute for a rejected section relating to collecting and disbursing the proceeds of fines for breach of penal laws, that all funds collected from any source, including, of course, the proceeds from the sales of the sixteenth and thirty-sixth sections of township school lands, be paid into a common fund, to be apportioned according to the number of children.
William M. Gwin and Henry W. Halleck, both of San Francisco, spoke against the measure; and Mr. Semple defended it in an able speech. It was rejected, however, and the way was left open for a great deal of cumbersome legislation in vain attempts to form township school funds. Finally, after fifty thousand acres had been sold by various townships, the proceeds of which have never been heard of since, in 1861 a law was passed consolidating the proceeds into one common State School Fund, as proposed by Mr. Semple in 1849.
THE TEST VOTE.
When Article IX, on education, came up for final adoption in the Convention, there was a lengthy debate on the policy of concurring with the action in Committee of the Whole in striking out the proviso in section second before mentioned. The