New York (N.Y.). Dept. of Finance.

Reports of an investigation concerning the cost of maintaining the public school system of the city of New York, by the Department of finance (Investigations division) online

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as soon as possible. In Boston teachers are classified on the basis of their aliility to
teach music and are excluded from special sujicrxision wlien tliey no Imiger need such

New Yokk Should Imitate Boston.

The Boston plan, as described I)y Superintendent F.dvvin P. Seavcr in liis last
report, is as follows:

" The individual grade teaciiers differ widely in the degree of their need of such
help as the visiting music teacher can give; and they differ, too, in the degree to
which they are conscious of such need. Last June it was thought important that the
greater force of music supervision should be expended where it was most needed. Ac-
cordingly, a classihcation of the grade teachers was made, on ihe basis of existing infor-
mation as to their ability to teach singing in the several rooms as follows:

" Class A — Teachers who are expected to give all the instruction in music in their
several rooms and who will l)e visited only occasionally for the purpose of inspection.

"Class B — Teachers who will teach music under constant supervision and will be
regularly visited for the purpose of supervision.

" Class C — Teachers who need the help which the visiting nuisic tcacliers give and
who, moreover, will be expected to take the special instruction to be provided for
them out of school hours.

" Each teacher was informed of her assignment to one or another of these classes
and was also told that her assignment would be changed from time to time for satis-
factory reasons. The suggestion was that the road to Class A would be k< pt open
to the ambitious teacher who wished to arise from Class B or Class C. There are
teachers who wish to be relieved of constant supervision". Very well, let them prove
their ability to teach a rule and they will be assigned to Class A.''

Unsctentific and'Verv Kxtk.\v.\gant.

The wholesale method of supervision which now obtains in New York City is not
only unscientific but it is, ineffective and extravagant. Science always means economy.
This is true in education as in other lines of business. The reform which has just
been started in Boston will serve as a landmark in educational In'story, because it marks
a new point of departure in the logical and inevitable development of special super-
vision in the elementary schools. To classify teachers on the basis of ability, to differ-
entiate between strength and weakness in the individual, is tlie only scientific solution
of this perplexing problem, and conditions are already compelling the adoption of
such a method in the metropolis.

With the growth of the City its school system has taken on such stupendous pro-
portions that it is no longer either practicable or expedient to continue the present
systepi of wholesale supervision. The corps of teachers in the elementary scliools now
exceeds ten thousand, and is increasing with amazing rapidity. 'I'lie plan of universal


supervision has broken down of its own weight and it has become imperative to intro-
duce a reform, not only as a means of saving money, but to relieve the class teachers
from the incul)us of excessive supervision, which now rests so heavily upon them. With
the extension of the school system its complexity has increased and supervisory o.fficers
have been piled up, one above another, until a class teacher is now directly supervised
by a principal, an assistant principal, a special teacher of music, a special teacher of
drawing, a special teacher of sewing, and a special teacher of physical training, and
is indirectly supervised by a director of music, a director of drawing, a director of
sewing, a director of physical training, a district superintendent, a division or associate
superintendent, and the City Superintendent. Teachers are in rebellion against this
burdensome supervision and a hostile public opinion is demanding reform.

Large Economy is Possible.

The facts disclosed in this investigation prove that large economies are possible in
the public schools. If a plan were adopted, not only in music but in all the special
branches, whereby special supervision would be restricted to those teachers who actually
need such assistance, the present corps of special teachers could be greatly reduced.
According to the Civil List for 1904 there are 13 directors and 246 special teachers
employed at an annual cost of $351,030 to supervise music, the several branches of
manual training, and physical culture in the elementary schools. They arc as follows.

Directors of Special Branches.

Drawing ami Physical

iHinuislis. Music, t'oiistructive Work. Sewing. Cooking. Sliopwork. Training.

Manhattan and The

Bronx i i i 1 .. 1

Brooklyn i I i .. .. i

Oueens i i . . . . . . i

utile ("ily 3 3 2 I . . 4

* This inchKks one General Director for all boroughs.


Si'icciAL 'J'eacheks or Special Branches.

Drawing aiul Physical

liuruuglis. Music. Constructive Work. Sewing. Cooking. biiopwork. Training.

Manhattan and The

lironx 26 _'8 ,^6 32 32 14

lirooklyn 1 <, \(i 14 . . . . 7

(hieens . . . .^ 7 S 3

KichiiKind 4 J I . . . . I

F.ntire Cit\

Cost of Simxiai, Sim'ekvision.

Music $84,()8o 00

Dfavving and constructive vvofk 80,760 00

Sewing 66,500 00

Cooking- ." 38 200 00

Shopwork 43.290 00

Pliy.sical training 37,600 00

Total $351,030 00

'I'ilK Dl'.l'AKTMKNT OF KdIKATION CoiILD SaVE $150,000 A YeAK.

l'>o(li kai'Iicrs and principals should he classified strictly on the basis of their
rllicicncy in racii of those so-called special l)r;niclies. it is pnihahlc that more super-
visidu is ncedrd in nnisic than in any other subject, but there is no doubt that, luider
tile slinnihis which a just recognition of ability would give, a large proportion of the
class teachers could be excused from such supervision as is given by the special
teachers of nnisic. In case the i)riiicipal is especially skilled in one of the special
subjects, his entire school should be designated as one in which assistance of a special
teacher in that particular subject is not required. "Excused from supervision" would
thus conic to be a mark of merit for which all would strive. Such a policy would lift
the leaden liand of uniformity which now rests so heavily on teachers of ability, and
stimulate the whole corps to more efficient efi'ort.

After music, drawing and constructive work are most in need of supervision, but
if the course of study in the subjects were shorn of technicalities and superfluities, it is
likely that fifty per cent, of the class teachers could be excused from supervision by
special teachers. Lender the departmental system of teaching, which has been so widely
adopted in the seventh and eighth grades of the grammar schools, it is possible to do
away entirely with special teachers in grades in which this system obtains. In depart-
mental work the teacher who has special aptitude and (lualilications for teaching a

1 36

given subject is assigned to give the instruction in that hrancli lo a numhirr of classes,
instead of teaching a number of subjects to one class. In other words, each teacher
becomes a specialist in one branch and vvilh a nuisic specialist, a drawing specialist, and
a physical culture specialist in a given school, there is no need for special teachers of
these subjects. Under the departmental system it is entirely practicable to have a
teacher .skilled in each of these branches included in the regular corps of every gram-
mar department, and this would do away with the need of special teachers in the gram-
mar schools.

Most of the special teachers of sewing should be dispensed with. If the dress-
making and applied design were eliminated from the course of study, and the work
confined to plain sewing, the great majority of the class teachers would be fully com-
petent to give the instruction in this subject. The special teachers of cooking cannot
be dispensed with, if this subject is to be retained, because, as already stated, a cooking
teacher is not a supervisor, but is merely a class teacher who instructs pupils just as
other class teachers do. The same is true of shop teachers. In physical training, as
already stated in my special report on this subject, there is no occasion whatever for
any elaborate system of supervision in the elementary schools. Under the direction of
the principal and director of physical training, the average class teacher is abundantly
able to give such physical exercises as should be given in the elementary schools.

The facts set out in these five reports on sewing, cooking, drawing and constructive
work, physical training, and music, show that great economies are possible in the
administration of school affairs. If technical and scientific instruction in the special
branches were eliminated from the course of study for the elementary schools, and a
restricted system of supervision based upon a proper classification of teachers were
adopted, it would be entirely feasible and highly beneficial to make large reductions
in the present corps of special teachers whose salaries now aggregate over $350,000 a
year. Such a curtailment of the course of study would also materially reduce the
expenditures for special study supplies which now aggregate over $150,000 a year.
If these reforms were instituted, the Department of Education could save $150,000
a year on music, manual training, and physical culture in the elementary schools.

Beyond saving $150,000 a year, the elimination of technical instruction in the
special branches and unnecessary supervision by special teachers would go far toward
restoring the neglected common branches to their rightful place by reducing to reason-
able limits the time and attention given to the special branches. The present gross
exaggeration of the place of the special studies is due to the fact that they are com-
paratively new and are therefore specially supervi.sed. To dispense entirely with spe-
cial teachers would go a long way toward restoring equilibrium in the curriculum and
bringing order out of the present confusion in the schools, but this is not advisable at
the moment because a part of the teachers still need extra help in these newer branches
and it is therefore necessary to have some special teachers. F.ventually. of course, spe-
cial teachers of music, manual training, and physical training will entirely disappear


and these subjects will become simply regular studies which every teacher must be
able to handle.

A special teacher is a device for facilitating the introduction of new subjects into
the schools. Special supervision is the temporary scaffolding used in building an ex-
tension to the course of study. It should be torn down as soon as the work is com-
pleted. In place of grasping this fact and acting upon it, the Department of Educa-
tion continues to enlarge its elaborate and costly scheme of special supervision, when
the time is ripe to begin its destruction. The course of study has been extended.
Music, manual training and physical culture are in the schools. Special supervision
has been the means of putting them there, but in so far as it has accomplished this
purpose it has become an obstruction to further progress. Special studies should be
made regular studies and special teachers should be dispensed with as rapidly as pos-
sible. Economy and the best interests of the children are at one in making this de-

Respectfully submitted,



Showing the Amount of Property Held by the Board of Education as of date
January 9, 1904, Which Had Not Been Improved— Cost of Carrying Charges
and Loss of Taxes Resulting Therefrom.

Hon. Edward M. GrouTj Comptroller:

Sir — In accordance with your instructions, the following report and attached data
relative to properties acquired for school purposes is respectfully submitted. The con-
dition of the various properties included in the detailed statement attached was ascer-
tained through inspection by your representatives on January 8 and 9, 1904, to which
date calculations of interest were also made. The loss of taxes is figured on the valua-
tions and at the rates which prevailed in the boroughs for the dififerent years, less an
allowance for the cost of condemnation proceedings.

In the Borough of Manhattan there are 20 plots of property, aggregating about 80
lots, or about 175.000 square feet of land. On all of these 20 plots the buildings which
originally encumbered them when title was vested in the City are still standing. The
City -was in physical possession of these properties for periods varying from two months
to seventy months. One plot owned for nearly six years cost the City $326,645.90, and
the carrying charges for interest (3V2 per cent.) on the bonds issued to pay for the
plot, together with an annual installment of i per cent., to provide for the redemption
of bonds at maturity, has now amounted to $85,744.58, exclusive of the loss of taxes to
the City, which, up to and including 1903, amounted to $25,756.80. Another plot
has been in the City's possession for fifty-seven months. Six for two years or more;
five from ten months to nineteen months, and the balance from two to nine months.

The cost of acquiring these 20 plots in Manhattan was $1,539,854 34

Interest or carrying cost to January 9, 1904 (4^/ per cent.), paid out of

the Budget and included in tax levies 162,489 52

Loss of taxes on these 20 plots 51,693 28

Total cost to City to January 9, 1904 $1,754,037 14

All of these properties are absolutely useless for school purposes in the condition
in which they have been allowed to remain, no matter for what school purposes they
were intended.


In addition to the 20 plots on which buildings are standing, there have been
acquired four plots consisting of about 18 vacant lots, containing 45,000 square feet of
land. One of these west of Seventh avenue, running through from One Hundred and
Forty-seventh to One Hundred and Forty-eighth streets, has a frontage on both streets
of 150 feet. It has been in possession of the City since April 25, 1901, over 32 months.
It has never been improved and is now used as a recreation ground. No objection is
made to this use of the property unless it is determined that increased school capacity
has been needed in that neighborhood. In that event the property could have been
improved and the same recreation facilities provided on the roof of the building, as is
now being successfully done elsewhere.

In the Borough of The Bronx six plots, containing 186,000 square feet, are in pos-
session of the City.

With the exception of a building on one of the sites, these properties are all vacant
and available for use for school purposes. Part of one of these plots was acquired nine
years ago, and the balance of the same plot four years ago. Of the others, one plot
has been held 53 months, one 30 months, and the others, three, four and five months.

The property cost the City $149,486 20

Carrying charges to January 9. 1904 8,973 18

Loss of taxes • 3.404 33

Total cost to the City to January 9, i90_| $161,863 7i

The Borough of Queens has six vacant plots available, containing 150,000 square

feet. The City has owned one of these plots 4^/2 years, one for 3 years, 2 others for

2^ years, and one which adjoins a school i-/> years, and the remaining one for 4

These properties cost the City $35,410 1 1

Carrying charges to January 9, 1904 3879 82

Loss of taxes 1.556 66

Total cost to the City to January 9, 1904 $40,84659

In the Borough of Richmond there arc two plots, one acquired 8 months, and the
other over 2 months ago. Both plots are vacant and available and contain about
61 000 square feet.

They cost the City , $4,750 00

Carrying charges up to January 9, 190-1 48 00

Loss of taxes 5 73

Total cost to the City to January 9, 1904 $4,803 73


In the Borough of Brooklyn the City owns seven plots of property, containing
about 165,000 square feet of land. From four of tliese plots the buildings have never
been removed, and the other two are vacant lots. They have been owned l)y the City,
one for _j8 months, one ior 30, one for 15, and the others for 8, 6 and 4 months, re-
spectively. They are all available for school jiurposes.

The City has. paid for tlicse Brooklyn plots ; $209 808 20

Carrying charges to January 9. 1904 8.360 20

Loss of taxes 2.896 47

Total cost to the City to January 9, 1904 $221,064 87

In addition to these seven plots, five plots have been purchased by the City, two
of which are used for light and air, and two for ])Iaygrounds. One of the latter, how-
ever, is reported as being fenced in and not apparently used. The remaining plot, 150
by 252, is in the rear of Erasmus Hall. There are seven frame buildings on this piece
of ground which are used for class-rooms. The Board of Educatit)n on December 31,
1903, reported that plans were under way for this plot. It has been owned by the
City for 28 months and has been available for improvement all that time.

Your attention is respectfully called to the -fact that the present Board of Educa-
tion was not in control of the schools in the Borough of Brooklyn until February,
1902. The con(htion reported herein, however, shows the condition as it now exists.

The Board of Education, under date of December 31, 1903, in reply to your re-
quest, submitted a list of "Property acquired for school purposes not yet improved."
In this list there are mentioned 34 plots, 29 of which are included in the 41 mentioned
in this report, and the other five are included in those which are vacant properties
acquired for light, air or recreation purposes, and not included in the estimate of the
cost of the 41 sites. In the report the Board of Education states that it has plans under
way for 12 of these plots, and plans ready for 2. Oi the 12 plots ior which plans are
under way 5 are in r^Ianhatlan and have been in the possession of the City 31 months,
26 months. 6 months, 4 months and 2 months, respectively. Four of these are for
additions to existing school-houses and i for a new school. Buildings are still stand-
ing on all of these 5 plots, as is the condition also of the property for which plans are
rci)orted ready.

In the Borough of The Bronx plans arc under way for 2 plots, i of which has
been in the possession of the City for 53 months and the other for 5 months.

\n the Borough of Brooklyn plans are reported under way for 2 plots which the
City has held for 15 months and 4 months, respectively.

Plans are also mider way for a plot in Queens which the City has held title to
for 17 months, and plans ready for a plot which has liccn in the City's hands for 4


In Richmond Borough plans are under way for the 2 plots that have been in
the possession of the City for 2 and 8 months, respectively.

You will notice that in no case has a contract been reported let or awarded for
the improvement of any of the 41 plots that have been in possession of the City from
2 to 70 months. The attached compilation will show those plots for the improvement
of which there are plans under way or ready.

The Board of Education in its report of December 31, 1903, does not account
for all of the plots mentioned in your report. They are, however, properly included in
your report, as in each case the buildings are still standing and the plots are useless
in the present condition.

Under date of December 17, I9C'2, you addressed a communication to the Presi-
dent of the Board of Education .giving a list of 42 properties acquired for school pur-
poses throughout the City. You requested that the list be examined and that you
be advised as to the intention of the Board of Education concerning these properties,
and that the properties not needed for school purposes be turned over to the Com-
missioners of the Sinking Fund for their disposition. The Board of Education on
January 17. 1903, submitted a report in reply to your request, in which ft explained
the status of each of the 42 sites or properties. In the report of the Board of Edu-
cation 10 of the 41 properties treated of in this report are mentioned, 8 in Manhattan
and I each in The Bronx and Brooklyn.

Borough of Manhattan — Of the property on Fifteenth and Sixteenth streets,
between First avenue and Livingston place, which has been owned by the City for 70
months, the Board of Education says that it is its intention to use the site " for
manual training high school and girls' technical high school. It is expected that
contracts will be let early this year (1903)." In the report of the Board of Education
of December 31, 1903, nearly a year later, it is indicated that no action has been taken
to improve this site. In their report of January 17, 1903, the Board of Education
reports on the following properties :

Nos. 208 to 218 East Thirty-third street;
Nos. 437 to 439 West Forty-ninth street;
Nos. 2>-7 to ZH East Fourth street ;

— that they "' will be improved as soon as funds are available." In their report of
December 31, 1903, plans under way are reported for the Fourth street site, but
nothing is said about the other two. Regarding No. 29 Norfolk street, it is reported, on
January 17, 1903, that additional property is being acquired and a large building will
soon be erected. No action toward this improvement was reported in the December
31 report.


Of the plot facing on Broome, Clarke and Dominick streets, which was acquired
for a new school, the Board of Education reports, on January 17, 1903, that " a new
building will probably be erected in the near future." On December 3:, 1903, accord-
ing to the report of the Board of Education, plans were not yet under way for this
site, which has been owned by the City for over 30 months, and has now cost, for
carrying charges and loss of taxes, over $36,000. Regarding No. 456 West Fifty-eighth
street and Nos. 169 to 173 East One Hundred and Fourteenth street, it is stated in the
January 17, 1903, report, that they will be improved " as soon as funds are available."

The Board of Education, in this same report of January 17, 1903, reports on one
site in the Borough of The Bronx, located at Eagle avenue and One Hundred and
Sixty-third street. It says that " addition will be built as soon as required and funds
are available." The December, 1903, report of the Board of Education does not show
that anything has been done with this site. In the Borough of Brooklyn, the Board
of Education reports in January, 1903, in connection with the McKibbin street property,
that it " will be improved as soon as funds are available."

As to the availability of funds, it is found by an investigation of the condition
of the School Building Fund, that on January i, 1903, ample funds were available.
The condition of the " School Building Fund " on January i, 1903, as shown by the
books of this Department, was as follows :

Cash balances for all boroughs $4,452,320 46

Bonds fully authorized and unissued 5,300,000 00

$9,752,320 46

Contract liability $4,133,435 68

Land liability 69,550 00

4,202,985 68

Available January i, 1903, for school sites and the improvement of sites. . $5,549,334 7^

The condition of this same fund on December 31, 1903, was :

Cash balances for all boroughs $639,631 79

Bonds fully authorized and unissued 11,718,430 00

$12,358,061 79

Contract liability $5,344,258 58

Land liability 585,172 00

5.929,430 58

Available January i, 1904, for school sites and the improvement of sites. $6,428,631 21


To summarize, your investigation has developed the fact that there are in the Greater
City, available for school purposes, 41 plots which have been left idle and unimproved.
Most of those in Manhattan and Brooklyn are well distributed and favorably located
for school purposes, as are those also in the other boroughs.

It cannot be urged that those properties on which buildings have been allowed to
remain for the great length of time reported, were awaiting plans and specifications for
the proposed new purposes, nor can this excuse be more properly made in connection
with the vacant properties. There are several instances where the Board of Education
actually opened bids for the erection of new school buildings before the title of the
property on which they were to be built became vested in the City. These instances
are reported on in the supplementary report affecting the conditions of school sites that
have been improved. While this condition is irregular it is not entirely improper.

The Board of Education is practically assured that a site will be available for its

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Online LibraryNew York (N.Y.). Dept. of FinanceReports of an investigation concerning the cost of maintaining the public school system of the city of New York, by the Department of finance (Investigations division) → online text (page 13 of 21)