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and girl in the country. (Ch. iv: p. 75.)

Local School Administration. The Illinois school
law makes the congressional township the school township
and unit of school government (Rev. Stat, ch. cxxii, sec.
30). Therefore a school township always coincides with
some congressional township. Remember, however, the
school officers are in no sense town officers. The actual
management of the schools, however, is vested in the school
district. If the school district contains a thousand people
there must be a board of education elected by the men and
women voters of the district. This board shall consist of
a president, elected for one year, and six members elected
for three years, the president and two members to be
chosen annually. There must be three additional members
for every ten thousand people up to a board of fifteen.
Cities above one hundred thousand population (Chicago)
must have a board of education of twenty-one members, ap-
pointed by the mayor with the consent of the council, for
three years; seven to be appointed annually. The board
selects the president from its own members. This is an
excellent illustration of the method pursued by the General
Assembly to evade the provision against special legislation
in the State constitution. Cities are grouped in classes ac-
cording to population. In the class referred to above, of



170 ACTUAL GOVERNMENT IN ILLINOIS

course Chicago is the only city to qualify. Why not be
honest and remove from the constitution such a " dead let-
ter " so far as it affects Chicago, and give that great city
much needed legislation directly ? ( i )

The board of education in Chicago must get the consent
of the council to issue bonds, buy or lease school sites, erect
or purchase school buildings. For the powers and duties
of the board, see Rev. Statutes, chapter cxxii, sections 178-
179; also pp. 171, 172 of this book. School boards and di-
rectors throughout the State have the right to condemn pri-
the owner." This is the famous right of eminent do-
main (2), the right of the "greatest good to the greatest
number," and is granted school boards in Illinois directly
by law. (Rev. Stat., ch. cxxii, sec. 148.) If the owner of
the property desired for the use of the schools refuses to
accept a reasonable price, then condemnation proceedings
are begun in court ; the price may be fixed by a jury and the
owner is compelled to accept it. This is just, because no
individual, or group of individuals, ought to block the
rights of a larger group. The property rights of a private
citizen are amply protected in the United States constitu-
tion. (See Constitution of the United States, Amendment
V.)

School Township Trustees. Each school township
elects three trustees as the business officers for its school
affairs. Their term is three years. One is elected annually
on the second Saturday of April, by the legal voters of the
township, men and women. In school townships where
the boundaries coincide with those of a town (3), the school
trustees are elected on the same day as the town officers
(the first Tuesday in April), for convenience, and to save
the expense of a separate election. Any resident, twenty-



PUBLIC EDUCATION IN ILLINOIS 171

one years old, is eligible fo>r the office; but no two trustees
shall reside, when elected, in the same school district, nor
can any person be trustee and director at the same time.

Duties of School Trustees. The trustees have three
main duties: (a) To divide the township into school dis-
tricts for the convenience of those who attend the schools ;
(b) to appoint a township treasurer who handles all school
funds in the township; (c) to hold all school property, both
lands and buildings, in their name. They may also estab-
lish a township high school if the people of the township
vote for one at an election called for that purpose.

District Boards of Directors. 2 After a township is
divided by the trustees into school districts, each having
less than one thousand population (unless it contains an
incorporated city or village), each district must elect three
directors who are charged with the management of the dis-
trict school. Their term is three years and one is chosen
annually on the third Saturday in April by the legal voters
of the district, including men and women. Neither trus-
tees nor directors receive any pay for their services.
Women are eligible for directors. The board of directors
must establish and keep in running order one or more free
schools for at least no days of actual teaching each year,
to accommodate all children in the district between the ages
of six (compulsory age is seven) and twenty-one. The
directors appoint the teachers, fix their salaries, levy the
school tax for the district, and have entire charge of the
schools. They are the educational officers for a school dis-
trict, while the trustees are the business school officers for
the entire township.

High Schools. Any school board has the right to es-
2 Rev. Stat., ch. cxxii, sees. 121-125.



172 ACTUAL GOVERNMENT IN ILLINOIS

tablish a high school to provide the first steps toward higher
education. The high school is properly named the " peo-
ple's college," and ought to be the most democratic school
in all our system. Public kindergartens, manual training,
domestic science, music, and drawing may be provided
under special teachers if the voters of the district so author-
ize the board through an election.

Compulsory School Law. School must be held in
every district at least no days in the year and all children
between seven and fourteen are compelled to attend under
penalty. The parents may be brought into court by the
truant officer and fined if they fail to keep their children
in school the required months. Children who are feeble-
minded, blind, or crippled are provided with special instruc-
tion, or legally excused from attendance.

Township High Schools. This form of high school
is in much favor in Illinois. There are about one hundred
in the State. A township high school is organized, after a
special election has authorized its establishment, by electing
a township boa/rd of five members, who have full control of
the high school. The advantages of such a high school are :
(a) more taxable property, hence larger revenue, better
buildings, grounds, and equipment; (b) more careful su-
pervision because the township board gives its time and
effort to the high school alone; (c) more pupils can attend
without paying tuition. It also enables the poorer districts
in a township to unite their funds and get such an advanced
school, which otherwise they could not afford to have.
April is the usual month in Illinois for school elections.
Consult the Revised Statutes, chapter cxxii, for the exact
Saturday.

Teachers' Pension Fund. Illinois has a Teachers'



PUBLIC EDUCATION IN ILLINOIS 173

Pension Fund, created by act of the Legislature in 1915,
which applies to all the cities and school districts in the
State except Chicago and Peoria. The fund is created by
certain amounts deducted from the salaries of all teachers
coming under its provision and the remainder comes from
the State. The pension granted after twenty-five years of
teaching is four hundred dollars. The teachers contribut-
ing elect three of the five trustees who manage the fund and
the State superintendent and State treasurer are ex-ofricio
members of the pension board.

SUMMARY ILLINOIS SCHOOL SYSTEM BY OUTLINE

(a) State superintendent (i)

(b) County superintendents (102)

(c) School directors (3 in each township)

(d) Township school trustees (3 in each township)

(e) Township treasurer (i)

(f) Board of education (elected) (7-15)

(g) Board of education (appointed) (21)

PERTINENT QUESTIONS

1. Which of these officers are elected? Which appointed?
Which receive any salary?

2. To which school offices are women eligible? (Rev. Stat,
ch. cxxii, sec. 290.)

3. To whom are school taxes paid?

4. How does a teacher get her salary?

5. If refused payment, could she legally recover her salary?

6. How would you secure an athletic field for your school?

7. How often may text-books be changed in your district?
(Rev. Stat., ch. cxxii, sec. 146.)

8. How could your township get a township high school?

9. What difference in government between a township and a
city high school?

10. How could your district get a kindergarten? What chil-
dren could attend it?



174 ACTUAL GOVERNMENT IN ILLINOIS

11. Do the citizens in your district use the schoolhouse for
meetings outside of school hours?

12. If not, why?

13. Why should the property of a bachelor be taxed to support
the schools?

14. Why must the property of a non-resident pay a school tax?



CHAPTER XIII
THE MERIT SYSTEM IN ILLINOIS

STATE, COUNTY, AND CITY CIVIL-SERVICE COMMISSIONS
GENERAL REFERENCES

1. Edward Gary: The Merit System The Spoils System.

2. Elizabeth Luther Gary: A Primer of the Civil Service and

the Merit System.

3. Clinton B. Woodruff: The Merit System in Municipalities.

4. The Business Value of Civil-Service Reform.

5. Imogen B. Oakley: Spread of Civil-Service Reform Prin-

ciples through Women's Clubs.

6. W. W. Vaughan: Every Man on His Own Merits. (These

are furnished schools by Women's Auxiliary, Massachu-
setts Civil Service Reform Association usually without
charge. Address Miss Marion C. Nichols, 31 Beacon
Street, Boston, for list of their valuable publications and
reports.

SPECIAL REPORTS FOR ILLINOIS

7. Eighteenth Annual Report Cook County Civil-Service Com-

mission, September, 1913.

8. Report, 1914, of Chicago Civil-Service Commission.

9. Report, 1914, Illinois State Civil-Service Commission. (Send

to the County, City, or State authorities for these interest-
ing reports.) (i)

" Civil-Service Reform has survived the doubts of its friends, as
well as the rancor of its enemies, and has gained a permanent
place among the agencies destined to cleanse our politics and to
improve, economize, and elevate the pubic service." GROVER
CLEVELAND.

175



176 ACTUAL GOVERNMENT IN ILLINOIS

" Civil-Service Reform is as democratic and as American as
the public-school system." THEODORE ROOSEVELT.

Meaning of Civil Service. " The purpose of civil-
service legislation is to provide a non-political method of
determining fitness of applicants for public positions, and
to prevent their removal for any political or religious reason.
The method of determining fitness for these positions is by
practical, competitive examinations, open to all citizens alike.
From these examinations eligible lists are made up by rating
applicants in the order in which they have passed an ex-
amination. And from these lists, in the same order, posi-
tions are filled.

" The purpose of the plan is to place the public civil
service on a business-like basis, so that public business may
be transacted as efficiently and honestly as in any private
concern" First Annual Report of the Illinois Civil-Serv-
ice Commission.

History of the Movement. The United States Gov-
ernment has had a civil-service law The Pendleton Act
since 1883. The spoils system "to the victor belong
the spoils of the enemy " came in under President Jack-
son, about 1830, and for over half a century that degrad-
ing, wasteful system of office-holding prevailed throughout
the country and covered State and local governments as
well as Federal.

" Without the shedding of blood there is no remission
of sins." The American people were at last aroused to the
dangers of this vicious system by the death of President
Garfield, shot by a disappointed office-seeker. The Pendle-
ton Act was the response to awakened public opinion that
a " public office is a public trust," and an office-holder only
a trustee for the public who employs him.



THE MERIT SYSTEM IN ILLINOIS 177

The post-office department was the first one placed on a
merit basis, and its great growth in amount of business and
in efficient service to the people dates from that time. At
present nearly 260,000 Federal officers are in the classified
service about two-thirds of the entire Federal service
and the major part of the clerical positions in all ten cabinet
departments at Washington are under this common-sense
method of determining fitness to hold government positions.
Thomas Jefferson's three qualifications for office-holding
have never been improved on: (ist) Is he honest? (2nd)
Is he capable? (3rd) Will he be faithful to the constitu-
tion ? Honesty, efficiency, patriotism where will you
find a better official creed ?

City Civil Service. In 1895 the first civil-service law
in Illinois passed the General Assembly, applicable to cities
only, and after a referendum vote. Under its provisions
Chicago and Evanston each adopted civil service and thus
became the pioneer cities in Illinois to begin the merit sys-
tem. Chicago has only about fifty positions exempt out
of its huge pay-roll of 24,000 persons. This does not
count the school teachers or the judges of the municipal
court.

The Chicago civil-service commission has done some
notable work during its twenty-one years of life. The spe-
cial features of its excellent record (2) are : Equal salaries
for equal duties, or for all employees in the same class ; pro-
motion through examination only and for efficiency alone;
appropriate examinations, or those having a more direct
bearing upon the requirements of the position to be filled.

To examine scrub women in arithmetic and grammar is
absurd. A test for physical strength and endurance, added
to some knowledge of practical sanitation, is much more to



178 ACTUAL GOVERNMENT IN ILLINOIS

the point. The Chicago commission proposes to carefully
adjust its tests to the requirements of the work to be per-
formed. It is already a pioneer in introducing practical
tests as a prominent feature of its examinations. These
are best understood by a few illustrations :

A bridge-tender is wanted. The commission requires a
strong man with perfect sight and hearing; the mental ex-
amination for such a position forms a small part of the
whole test. Then the appointee is required to take sight
and hearing tests from time to time, to be sure his eyes and
ears continue perfectly normal.

A meat inspector is needed. One day he takes a written
examination on the theoretical part of his work. The next
day he is taken to the stock-yards and told to select healthy
and diseased meats ; if diseased, to state what is the trouble
and if there is a possible remedy.

For the fire and police departments fourteen physical
tests for strength, agility, and endurance are required. A
given height, weight, girth of chest, and lung expansion
are also necessary. The result we see in the thirty-five
hundred Chicago policemen, who are as fine a set of men
physically as you will find anywhere. To show how this
weeding process operates, look at one of the examinations
for patrolmen. Out of eight hundred and forty-eight ap-
plicants, only about twenty-five per cent, passed all these
severe tests.

The Chicago commission also maintains a character-in-
vestigation department, where the honesty and reputation
of the applicant is looked up, just as a bonding company
investigates the character of a prospective bank cashier be-
fore they will issue a bond for him. A common trick to
evade civil-service regulations was for a strong man to take



THE MERIT SYSTEM IN ILLINOIS 179

the physical tests, a bright one the mental examination, and
an entirely different person - but all three under the same
name to get the appointment. This is prevented by the
system of identification used, where a print of the forefinger
is made at different times under all these tests, and of course
must be identical.

There has been a very decided change in sentiment on
civil-service questions during the last few years. Formerly
the merit system was regarded mainly as protecting the
employee from grasping politicians and spoilsmen. Now
the viewpoint has shifted to the interests of the tax-paying
public. The efficiency of the public service is the leading
object. As the counsel for the Chicago commission once
expressed it, " The individual may suffer, but I feel I repre-
sent and am to safeguard the City of Chicago," a very
radical change of sentiment from the welfare of the indi-
vidual to the benefit of the community, but quite in line with
the trend of modern thought on many topics. A large num-
ber of cities in the State now have civil-service commissions
and have placed their firemen and policemen at least under
merit rules.

The Merit System in Cook County. The county
civil-service commission of three is appointed by the presi-
dent of the county board for a term of three years; but
the terms are so arranged that only one commissioner is
appointed each year. Under the present law the consent
of the county board is not required. Cook County had the
honor of the first woman civil-service commissioner (3) in
Illinois and the second in United States. The county char-
ity service owes much to her wise administration. The
charitable institutions of Cook County were first placed un-
der the merit system in 1895 ; but for nearly eight years the



i8o ACTUAL GOVERNMENT IN ILLINOIS

administration of the law was only a joke. The fact that
not even a stenographer was employed by the civil-service
commission is proof the law was a dead letter. Then pub-
lic opinion began to demand better enforcement of the law.
The account that follows was largely taken from the admir-
able Eighteenth Annual Report of the Cook County Civil-
Service Commission, issued three years ago but just as illu-
minating now as then.

Purpose of the Act. " The purpose of the County
Civil-Service Act is to maintain a system of employment
in the various county offices and institutions, based solely
on merit and efficiency. Positions in the county service are
not owned by the successful candidates or political leaders
who happened to have a majority of the votes at the last
election, but belong to the whole people of the county.
Every citizen, according to his ability to do the work re-
quired in the county service, should have exactly the same
opportunity for employment possessed by any other citizen.
The examinations, which test ability, should be practical
and impartial tests, directed to the sole question of relative
fitness to perform the duties of the position. The county
hospital requires doctors ; the State's attorney, lawyers ; the
county treasurer, clerks; and the county recorder, record
writers. Appointments to these or other county positions
ought never to be based upon service in a ward club, or upon
supposed loyalty to a factional political leader. Politics has
nothing whatever to do with a doctor's care of the sick,
with the prosecution of crime, with the making out of tax
bills, or the writing up of titles to real estate. Ability to do
the work required, as measured by reasonable standards of
efficiency, is under the Civil-Service Act made the sole basis
of public employment. The elimination under persistent



THE MERIT SYSTEM IN ILLINOIS 181

and systematic treatment of inefficient employees and of
conditions of employment which breed waste and ineffi-
ciency are alike a benefit to the public and to the public em-
ployees."

A sweeping civil-service law, putting all the large fee
offices under merit rule, was passed by the Legislature in
1911.

The Exempt Service. " On the 2Oth of February,
1913, these great fee offices of the county, the county treas-
urer, the county clerk, the sheriff, the offices of the clerks
of the circuit, superior, county, probate, and criminal courts,
the election commission, the State's attorney's office, the
assessor's office, the board of review, the coroner's office,
and the recorder's, became exempt from the provisions of
the Civil-Service Act because the supreme court found that
the Legislature had failed to print some forty words of the
1911 Act. A new civil-service act, so worded it will stand
the test of the supreme court and be declared constitutional,
that will place these great fee offices under merit rule, is
one of the imperative needs of Cook County. It is esti-
mated a half million dollars annually could easily be saved
the tax-payers through such a law honestly enforced."

A recent illustration of the truth of this estimate is
furnished by the county agent's office. Before an examina-
tion was required, forty-five investigators were employed
to determine the condition of persons applying for county
poor relief. After examination, only seven were found
necessary to handle all such investigations.

How the Spoils System Works. " The system under
which appointments are now made to the exempt offices
does not differ much from the system in vogue for twenty
years past. Candidates for office are usually asked to sign



182 ACTUAL GOVERNMENT IN ILLINOIS

the customary pledge to place all positions in their depart-
ments at the disposal of the County Central Committee of
the party winning the election. Some department heads
may succeed, after negotiation, in retaining a few positions
for their personal friends and helpers. Necessity compels
the retention of a few old employees who are familiar with
the routine work of an office." For example, since the last
county election, less than a dozen experienced employees
out of an office force of over seventy, were retained by the
board of assessors to do the very important work of assess-
ment of property in the richest county in the State.

" The agreement is usually enforced that the great bulk
of the county positions shall be pooled in the hands of the
County Committee. The County Committee allots these
positions, graded according to salary, to the various party
leaders, according to the size and nature of the party vote
polled in their districts. Factional differences modify the
size of certain shares, but the principle of allotment has been
maintained. When a vacancy in the county service occurs,
the privilege of filling it belongs of right to a particular
party leader. He, in turn, has obligations in the wards
and precincts under him. Grotesque misfits of men in posi-
tions where the only thing they understand is the salary
attached, are the inevitable consequences of this system.

" A burdensome political obligation is placed upon county
employees in the exempt service. Though they are paid
from the county treasury, a considerable part of their time
is devoted to partisan work. An employee must be able
to ' deliver his precinct/ or to show a certain number of
votes in it, if he expects to retain his position. Increase in
salary and promotion depend on the same practical test.
His job is always at stake. He will be dropped from the



THE MERIT SYSTEM IN ILLINOIS 183

pay roll if he fails to deliver the requisite number of votes.
There are about forty thousand public employees within the
geographical limits of Cook County. A civil-service law
is the only barrier against the exploitation of these men
and women for political purposes. Until such a law is ap-
plied to all these positions, the voters of Cook County have
but a slender chance to determine real political issues, or to
decide upon the relative merits of candidates for elective
offices."

The Illinois primary law is at present a party measure,
and nomination by petition the only chance for a non-parti-
san candidate. But such a candidate has slender chance
of winning at the polls when he must overcome the strenu-
ous partisan work of a crowd of office-holders whose
" jobs " depend on the success of their party.

One of the important sections in every civil-service law
forbids an employee from electioneering of all kinds, nor
can he be compelled to contribute to any campaign fund.
His time and his pocketbook are thus protected from the
raids of candidates for the elective offices. " That the
merit system of Cook County has survived the attacks of
its enemies is proof of the soundness of its principles.
Twice the people of the county have endorsed the merit sys-
tem; the last time in 1910 by a majority of nearly 100,000
votes." There are now (October 1916), 1,100 positions
in the classified service, or places under the civil-service law.
One great evil is usually the large number of temporary
appointments those made for sixty days - without the
applicant passing any examination. Sometimes these ap-
plications are renewed so many times that the position really
becomes " exempt," and persons who have honestly passed
an examination and been placed on the eligible list are


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Online LibraryMary Louise ChildsActual government in Illinois → online text (page 12 of 16)