Thomas E. (Thomas Edward) Finegan.

A text book on New York school law, including the revised education law online

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The Unification Act of 1904 created the Education Department.
By Regents' ordinance adopted in 1913, power was conferred upon
the University of the State of New York to administer the powers
and functions of the Education Department. The University of
the State of New York is, therefore, charged with the general
management and supervision of all public schools and educational
institutions and of all general educational work of the State.

Maintenance of Schools — Constitutional Provision. — The
Constitution contains but one provision in relation to the main-
tenance of a public school system. This provision is a clear, simple
mandate which requires the Legislature to provide for the main-
tenance and support of a system of free common schools wherein
all the children of the State may be educated. The language of
the Constitution is as follows:

Article IX

Common Schools. — Section i. The Legislature shall provide
for the maintenance and support of a system of free common
schools, wherein all the children of this State may be educated.

The University has been organized and its work classified as
follows :




General Powers. — The Board of Regents has, subject to
the laws of the State, legislative control over the Education Depart-
ment and State educational policies and such board also exercises
all the powers of the University of the State of New York. It
approves all appointments made by the Commissioner of Education,
and fills anj vacancy that may exist in the office of Commissioner
of Education.

It gives direction to the work related to admission to the learned
professions, to the management of the State library and the scien-
tific work of the State, and to other educational work sustained by
the State outside of teaching institutions.

Number. — The law provides that there shall always be three
more regents than there are judicial districts in the State. As there
are nine judicial districts at present, there must be twelve regents.

Election. — One regent is chosen on joint ballot of the
assembly and the senate during the second week in February each

Term. — As one regent is chosen each year and as the number
of regents is twelve, the term of a regent is twelve years.

Vacancies — How Filled. — If a vacancy on the Board of
Regents occurs in a judicial district which should still have a
representative on the Board of Regents and there shall be at the
time of such vacancy a district not represented on such board, such
vacancy must be filled by the election of a regent residing in such
unrepresented district.

If a vacancy in the office of regent occurs for other cause than
expiration of term of office, such vacancy shall be filled for the
unexpired term by the legislature if it is in session, and if it is not
in session such vacancy shall be filled at the session of the legis-
lature immediately following.

President of University and Commissioner of Education. —
The President of University and Commissioner of Education has
executive direction over the affairs of the Education Department
and is the general advisory and supervisory officer of the entire
State educational system. Chapter III of this work is devoted
exclusively to his election, powers, duties, etc.

Deputy and Assistant Commissioners of Education. — There
are three assistant commissioners of education. These assistant


commissioners exercise the functions of the Commissioner of Edu-
cation in their respective fields, under his general direction. The
Commissioner of Education has designated the Counsel of the Uni-
versity as Deputy Commissioner of Education. These officers are
officially designated as follows : Deputy Commissioner and Counsel,
Assistant Commissioner and Director for Professional Education,
Assistant Commissioner for Secondary Education and Assistant
Commissioner for Elementary Education,

Chiefs of Divisions. — The Regents on the recommendation of
the Commissioner of Education classifies the administrative and
clerical work of the Department into divisions. The Commissioner
of Education on approval of the Regents appoints a chief or director
in charge of each division. Chiefs or directors of divisions are
directly responsible to the Commissioner of Education. There are
twelve of these divisions.

Director of State Library. — This Division has charge of the
State Library and the library school. The State Library was
established in 1818. It was placed under the trusteeship of the
various State officials. In 1844 it was placed under the custody of
the Regents of the University, and in 1899 was made a part of the

Director of State Museum. — The work of this division em-
braces investigations in natural science, the economic and industrial
applications of such science, and the State Museum. It also
embraces the work of the State geologist and paleontologist, the
State botanist. State entomologist, mineralogist, zoologist and

Director of Agricultural and Industrial Education. — This divi-
sion has general charge of all branches of industrial education,
including trade schools, industrial schools, courses in home-making
and in agriculture.

Division of History and Public Records. — The office of the
State Historian is a part of the Education Department and the
duties formerly devolving on that officer are now performed through
this Division. The division created by the Legislature of 191 1 and
known as the " Public Records Division " was abolished by the
Legislature of 1915 and the functions of that division were merged
with the Division of History.


Director of Examinations and Inspections. — This division has
charge of all examinations conducted by the Education Department
and also has supervision of the inspection of the educational insti-
tutions of the State. The work of the Examinations Division and
the Inspections Division was coordinated by action of the Board of
Regents in April, 191 5.

The propriety of holding Regents examinations was first sug-
gested in 1828. It was not, however, until June, 1864, that regula-
tions were prescribed for holding examinations in preliminary
subjects. The first examination was held in June, 1865, and
included the subjects of arithmetic, geography, grammar, reading,
writing, and spelling. In 1878, examinations were established in
20 advanced academic subjects. The number of subjects has
gradually increased until it is now more than 100.

(a) Laiv Examinations. — Examinations for admission to the bar
are conducted by a State board of examiners under the direction
of the Court of Appeals. The Department has nothing to do with
these examinations. Law students, before entering upon the study
of law, must offer certain preliminary educational qualifications
prescribed by the Court of Appeals. The examinations by which
these qualifications are determined are under the direction of the
Department. It is also authorized to accept the completion of
certain higher courses of study as a substitute for these examina-

{b) Medical Examinations. — A certain amount of general edu-
cation is required of all persons beginning the study of medicine.
The University has supervision of the preliminary medical-student
examinations, and is also the sole authority to issue licenses for the
practice of medicine in the State. The examinations for candi-
dates who desire to practice medicine are under the direction of
boards of medical examiners appointed by the Regents. The mem-
bers of these boards are leading physicians from various parts of
the State. Since 1890 the authority to indorse diplomas or licenses
of physicians from other States or countries has been vested in the
Department. Previous to this date such authority was possessed by
each of the medical colleges of the State.

(c) Other Professional Examinations. — This division has charge
also of the examinations for candidates who desire licenses to
practice dentistry, pharmacy, optometry and veterinary medicine in
the State, and also to practice as public expert accountants, or


architects, or who desire to become registered nurses. All licenses
of this kind are issued by the University.

(d) Teachers' E.vaiiiiiiatioiis. — This division also has charge of
all teachers' examinations held in the State. These embrace train-
ing school, training class, examinations held by district superintend-
ents, and those for special and for life State certificates.

(e) Other Examinations. — This division has charge of competi-
tive examinations on which State scholarships in Cornell University
are awarded and examinations in agriculture for persons desiring-
to qualify for the office of district superintendent.

Administration Division. — This division has general super-
vision of the internal workings of the Department subject to the
orders of the Commissioner of Education. It has general charge
of the mails, express matter, documents and printing, purchase of
supplies, finances of the Department, and has direct supervision
over the employees connected therewith, and such other employees
of the Department as are not under the direction of some superior
officer. It is also the duty of this division to see that expenditures
are made in accordance with the requirements of the appropriation
bills. It also receives all fees, has charge of all expense accounts,
and pays Department salaries. This division is also charged with
the duty of obtaining from all educational institutions in the State
and all school districts such reports as they are required by law
to make to the University or to the Education Department. It
tabulates such reports and prepares general statistics on our educa-
tional system. It makes all legal apportionments of State funds
to the public schools of the State and to all other educational
institutions entitled thereto.

Attendance Division. — This division has the general super-
vision and enforcement of the compulsory education law and the
census laws.

Educational Extension Division. — This division includes all
agencies for the promotion of educational advantages for the
assistance of those unable to attend the usual teaching institutions.
The means employed in the extension of this work embrace summer
schools, vacation schools, evening schools, correspondence schools,
lecture courses, study clubs, reading circles, etc. The supervision
of the incorporated pul^lic libraries of the State is under the direc-
tion of this division. It also has charge of the traveling libraries.


The work relating to education for adult illiterates is connected with
this division.

School Buildings Division. — At present this division is charged
with the inspection of school buildings and sites, and the approval
of plans and specifications for repairs to school buildings and the
construction of new buildings.

Law Division. — This division interprets the school law and
all other statutes related in any way to the educational work of the
State. It has direct charge of all contested appeals and presents
them in proper form to the Commissioner of Education for deter-
mination. It looks after the form and legality of charters issued
by the Board of Regents and the interests of the Department in any
litigation in the courts when the Department is thus involved.

School Libraries Division. — This division has charge of all
matters pertaining to public school libraries and of the relation
which such libraries bear to the instruction given in the schools.

Visual Instruction Division. — This division has general charge
of the collection of material for giving instruction by means of
pictorial or graphic representation in geography, history, science and
kindred subjects and of the distribution and loaning of such material
to the communities, schools and other institutions entitled to receive
the same.

Creation or Abolishment of Divisions. — By concurrent action
of the Regents and the Commissioner of Education the Department
is divided into divisions. By similar action a new division may be
created or an existing division abolished.

Appointment of Officers of Department. — All officers of the
Department are appointed by the Commissioner of Education subject
to the approval of the Regents.

Removals and Suspensions. — The Commissioner of Education
with the approval of the Regents may remove at his pleasure any
officer or employee of the Department.

When the Regents are not in session he may suspend during his
pleasure without salary any officer or employee until the adjourn-
ment of the succeeding meeting of the Regents.

State Education Building. — The education building is exclu-
sively set apart under the law for the use of the Education Depart-
ment. The Regents and the Commissioner of Education are given
power to assign the rooms in such building to the various divisions,
officers and work of the Department.


Misdemeanor Falsely Representing Education Department. —

It is a misdemeanor for a firm, agent or other person engaged in
selling, publishing or manufacturing books,. charts, apparatus or any
other school supplies to falsely represent to any school ofifiicer or
teacher that he is an agent or representative of the Education
Department, the Regents, the Commissioner of Education or any
other school officer.


What constitutional provisions is there in relation to the maintenance of
a public school system? Give a brief statement of the supervision exercised
by the State over Educational affairs. What power has the Board of Regents
over the Education Department? Who is the chief officer of such Depart-
ment? IIovv many assistant commissioners are there? State their title.
What is the general duty of each? How is work of the Department classi-
fied? What is the duty of the director of the State library? When was the
library established? When was it placed under the direction of the
Regents? When was it made a part of the University? What is the chief
work of the State museum? State in general terms the work of the adminis-
tration division. Atendance ' division. Educational extension division.
Examinations and inspections division. When were Regents examinations
first suggested? First given? State the various purpose for which
examinations are held. What is the chief work of the law division? School
libraries division? Visual instruction division? How are divisions created
or abolished? How are the officers of the Department appointed? How
may an officer be removed? How may an officer be suspended? Under
whose direction may rooms of the State education building be assigned?
For what use is such building exclusively set aside? \Miat prohibition is
there as to falsely representing the Education Department, etc. What is
the penalty?



[Article 4]

Historical Sketch. — On June 19, 1812, the Governor of the
State approved an act entitled "An Act for the Estabhshment of
Common Schools." This act is the law which is regarded as the
permanent foundation of the school system of the State. It pro-
vided for a state supervisory school officer to be known as " Super-
intendent of Common Schools." This was the first provision made
by any state in the Union for a state supervisory school officer
charged with the general administration of a state school system.

Gideon Hawley of the City of Albany was chosen by the Council
of Appointment to fill this office on January 14, 1813, and served
in such capacity until February 22, 1821. Superintendent Hawley
during the eight years he served the State as its com.mon school
superintendent built an enduring foundation upon which the present
school system of the State was established. On February 22, 1821,
he was removed from office by the appointment of another person
to succeed him through action of the Council of Appointment. The
reason for his removal was purely political. The action of the
Council of Appointment in removing the chief educational officer
of the State for a purely political reason, even in that early period,
caused such general indignation throi:ghout the State and was so
resented by the people that within less than two months from the
date of such action the Legislature abolished the office, and the
powers and duties of such office were conferred upon the Secretary
of State.

The Secretary of State served ex-officio as superintendent of
common schools from April 3, 1821, until April 8, 1854, when the
first State Superintendent of Public Instruction assumed the duties
of his office. Chapter 97 of the Laws of 1854 created such office.
The office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction was con-
tinued until April i, 1904, when the Unification Act went into

2 ig


effect. Under the provisions of that act, the office of Commissioner
of Education was created and the first Commissioner assumed the
duties of his office April i, 1904. On July 2, 1913, by action of
the Regents of the University, the office of President of the
University and Commissioner of Education was created.

It will thus be observed that the administration of public school
work has been under the direction of four State supervisory school
officers, as follows :

From January 14, 181 3, to February 2.2, 1821, the Superintendent
of Common Schools ;

From February 22, 1821, to April 8, 1854, the Secretary of State,
who was ex-officlo Superintendent of Common Schools ;

From April 8, 1854, to April i, 1904, the State Superintendent of
Public Instruction ;

From April i, 1904, to July 2, 1913, the Comi7iissioner of Edu-
cation ;

Since July 2, 1913, the President of the University and Commis-
sioner of Education.

Mode of Election. — Under the law of 1904 the first Commis-
sioner of Education was elected by joint ballot of the senate and
assembly. The provisions of that act have now been incorporated
in the Education Law and under this law any vacancy in the office
of Commissioner of Education must be filled by appointment by
the Board of Regents.

Term of Office. — The term of office of the first Commissioner
of Education was six years. Since the expiration of the first six
years, or since April i, 1910, the term of office of the Commissioner
of Education has not been a fixed period, but such commissioner
now serves during the pleasure of the Board of Regents.

Eligibility. — The public officers' law of this State provides
that all State officers shall be at least twenty-one years of age, a
citizen of the United States, and a resident of the State. The
Education law modifies the public officers' law by providing that
such Commissioner of Education may or may not be a resident of
the State.

Removal. — The Commissioner of Education may be removed
at any time by the Board of Regents for cause.

Salary. — The salary of the Commissioner of Education has
been $10,000 per year since 191 1. It was fixed at this amount by


the appropriation bill of 1910 and also by actions by the Board of

Powers and Duties. — The powers and duties of the Commis-
sioner of Education are so numerous that it is not practicable to-
consider them, except in a general way. For the specific duties of
the commissioner in relation to any branch of work the chapter on
such work should be consulted. The duties of the commissioner
are executive and judicial. His more important powers and duties
are as follows :

Chief Executive Officer. — He is the chief executive officer of
the State system of education and is required to enforce all the
general and special laws relating to the educational system of the
State and to execute all educational policies determined upon by
the Board of Regents.

General Supervision. — He has general supervision over all the
public schools, normal schools, industrial schools, training schools,
teachers' training classes, and libraries in the State.

Indian Education. — He is charged with the duty of providing for
the education of the Indian children in the State, and is directed to
apportion an equitable amount of public money to Indian schools.

Deaf and Dumb and Blind Institutions. — He also has supervision
over all institutions in the State for the instruction of the deaf and
dumb and blind, and is required to report annually to the State
Legislature in relation thereto. He also appoints State pupils qual-
ified under the law to all these institutions excepting the Institution
for the Blind in Batavia.

Trustee, etc. — He is ex-officio a trustee of Cornell University,
and upon the results of competitive examinations appoints annually
150 State scholars to that institution, who are entitled to free
tuition. He also annually appoints 750 State scholars in the several
colleges and universities in the State, and awards the scholarships
recently provided for soldiers, sailors and marines. (See L. 1919,
ch. 606.)

Visual Instruction. — He is authorized to collect material and
make all necessary arrangements and contracts to provide instruc-
tion by means of pictorial or graphic representation in geography,
history, science or kindred subjects. This instruction may be given
in the schools, institutions and organizations under the supervision
of the Regents. This material may also be loaned to artisans,
mechanics and other citizens of the several communities of the

Inspection of Schools. — He shall cause all schools and institu-


tions under the statutes relating to education to be examined and
inspected and to advise and guide all school officers in relation to
their duties and the management of such institutions. A staff of
inspectors is employed for this purpose.

Annual Reports. — He is to prepare an annual report which must
be submitted over the signatures of the chancellor of the University
and the Commissioner of Education to the State Legislature show-
ing the condition of the common schools in the State and of all
other schools and institutions under their supervision and subject to
their visitation, and to include in such report those recommenda-
tions upon school work, which in their opinion, will promote the
advancement of public education.

Supervision of Examination and Certification of Teachers. — He
is to prescribe the regulations under which district superintendents
may issue teachers' certificates; to issue life State certificates to
those who have passed the examination required by law ; to issue
college graduates' certificates to those who meet the requirements
for such certificates ; to issue such other certificates as the rules
require ; to endorse under such regulations as he may adopt State
certificates and normal-school diplomas issued in other States ; and
to issue temporary licenses for a period not to exceed one year for
any supervisory district or city or any school district in the State.

Relocation of Certificates. — For sufficient cause, he may revoke
any State normal-school diploma, State certificate, college-graduates*
certificate, school commissioners' certificate or other certificate
issued in this State. He may also revoke his indorsement of any
normal-school diploma or State certificate issued in another State.

Prepare List of Nortnal Graduates. — - He is required under law
to keep in his office an alphabetical list of all persons who receive
normal-school diplomas from the normal schools of the State.

Remove School Officers. — He may, for valid reasons, remove
from office any district superintendent, member of a board of edu-
cation, or other school officer. He may also withhold the salary of
a district superintendent and may remit it at his pleasure.

Administer Affidavits. — He may take affidavits and administer
oaths in any matter relative to school affairs.

Prepare Registers, Blanks, etc. — He is charged with the duty of
preparing such registers, blanks, forms, regulations, etc., as may be
needed in transacting all business relating to the public-school


Enforcement of Compulsory Education Lazv. — ■ He is also charged
with the duty of enforcing the provisions of the compulsory-
education law.

Physical Education. — He is charged with the duty of supervising
the enforcement of the physical education law.

Arbor Day. — He has authority to provide for the proper observ-

Online LibraryThomas E. (Thomas Edward) FineganA text book on New York school law, including the revised education law → online text (page 2 of 33)