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Council, by which the shores of Mystic Lake and the Abbajona River as far as Walnut street in Winchester, can become public property, through the joint action of the town of Winchester, the Metropolitan Park Commission, and the Boston Water Board. The acquisition of this land will remove the principal source of pollution ; but if we are to continue to use the Mystic waters, it will be necessary to expend large sums in adding to the supply and in protecting the shores of the stream from pollution above the point named.
SECTION 11. Results. The results, from the standpoint of the public health, of this activity and expenditure -- the amounts expended since January 1, 1891, for the improvements mentioned in this section having been about $8,000,000, or nearly half the total amount of money horrowed by the city during the past four years -- remain, of course, to be seen ; but I have the utmost confidence that these results will be appreciated by the community, and that among them will in the near future be found a reduction in the death rate of this city from preventable diseases to a point as low as that of any large city in the world.
SECTION 1. The Public Schools. The public schools of this city have always been a source of civic pride, and the special concern of the City Council, which has ever been solicitous to provide the money needed to establish and maintain them upon the most liberal basis. The current expenses of the school department have risen during the past sixty years from about one-pinth of the total annual expenditures of the city to about one-sixth; and the annual expense per pupil from $8 to $28. The salaries of the school teachers are bigher than anywhere else, and it is believed that in this as in other items more liberal appropriations are made by this city for the purposes of public education than by any other in the world.
While many persons entertain grave doubts as to the tendency of the present methods of popular education, believing that in too many cases the practical result is rather to unfit than to fit the youth of the community for their subsequent work in life, it is not disputed, I think, that the schools of Boston are most ably conducted for the purposes kept in view by the committee. Tbe main criticism that is heard concerns the theory itself, and very many citizens, among whom I count myself, would prefer to see more attention paid to industrial education in its different branches, and less to the niore advanced and ornamental work to which so much of the activity of our school system is now directed.
With this idea in mind, it was a special source of gratification that after many years of agitation the City Council of 1891 was induced to appropriate a liberal sum for the establishment of a Mechanic Arts High School. This building was occupied in 1893, and has been crowded with pupils from its opening day.
A further and still more practical step in the direction of industrial training was taken in 1893 by the trustees of the Franklin Fund, who determined to devote the sum then available from that fund, viz., $328,940, to the purpose of building and maintaining technical or trade schools. If schools of this character can be established and conducted as successfully as in some other cities of this country, it will be possible for the children of Boston mechanics to learn a trade – a difficult thing under existing industrial conditions.
The chief function of the Mayor and City Council in reference to the schools is to furnish the money needed to maintain them, and to provide the additional buildings required from year to year.
Owing to the limited means at the disposal of the city during the years immediately succeeding the passage of the tax law of 1885, it was difficult to obtain the money needed for new school-houses; and from that time to 1890 no new primary schools were provided and but two grammar schools. This resulted in a serious deficiency in school accommodations, and in February, 1889, the School Committee addressed a request to the City Council for a large number of new grammar and primary school-houses. During that year land was purchased, under appropriations voted by the City Comcil, for nine new grammar and primary school buildings; but all efforts to obtain an appropriation for the buildings themselves failed until late in the year 1890, when the School Committee again called the attention of the City Council to the necessity of these new buildings. In this communication the comınittee state that the nine new schoolhouses requested "represent the accumulated necessities of three or four years, and provide only for what may be called the arrearages;” and they estimate the cost of the additional accommodations due to growth, and shifting of population, and necessary renewals, at from $200,000 to $300,000 per annum ; which would give one new
1 School Document 18 of 1890.
grammar school and two new primaries each year. The money to build four of the nine school-houses needed to make up the "arrearages” was ohtained that year, the loan order of October 17, 1890, containing an item of $340,000 for two grammar schools and two primaries. In March, 1891, the School Committee asked for an appropriation of $375,000 for four additional grammar schools and four additional primaries, as well as $48,157.20 for new sites, and also for an appropriation for a Mechanic Arts High School. During that year (1891) over $700,000 — a larger sum than in any previous year in the history of the city — was appropriated for school-houses, sites, and furnishings, including three
grammar school buildings, seven primaries, a Mechanic Arts High School, and several sites for future huildings. Large sums have also been raised in 1892, 1893, and 1894 for schoolhouse purposes, partly from revenue, but principally from loans. The total appropriations for these purposes made between January 1, 1891, and December 31, 1894, have been $1,958,111.22, which has permitted the construction of fourteen primaries, three grammar schools, and one Mechanic Arts High School; while one primary, three grammar schools, and one high school are under construction.
It should seem that these new buildings, exceeding the number estimated as necessary by the School Committees of 1890 and 1891, ought to provide sufficient accommodations for all children desiring to attend the public schools; but a number of the school-houses are still overcrowded, and probably will be even when the buildings now under construction are finished. I am at a loss to assign a cause for this condition of affairs, except that, according to information gathered from members of the School Committee, the most judicious selection of sites is not made by the committee. The entire matter of locating the new buildings is in charge of the School Committee, the City Council uniformly granting the requests of the committee to the extent of the money at their disposal ; and the committee seems to apportion the new
buildings among the different sections of the city rather with a view to pleasing the members from those districts and their constituents than with reference to the real necessities of the case.
It has frequently happened that after the City Council has voted an appropriation for a certain school and the order has been duly approved by me, members of the committee have come to the office to say that they regretted that this particular school had been ordered, as school-houses in other parts of the city were really more needed than the one in question. The difficulty seems to be that requests to the City Council for school-houses are log-rolled through the School Committee in much the same way that paving and other appropriations for local purposes are log-rolled through the City Council itself. A mistake may also have been made by the committee in recommending a large number of small primaries rather than a smaller number of larger ones.
In view of the fact that nearly two million dollars has been spent during the last four years for new sites and buildings, of the fact that the twenty-one primary and grammar school-houses provided since Jan. 1, 1891, accommodate 9,022 pupils, and of the fact that the increase of school accommodations during the past five years has been as much as during the fifteen years preceding these five, I am unable to account for the present insufficiency of school-houses except in the manner suggested.
It is now proposed to spend $2,500,000 more upon additional school-houses; and to borrow the money outside the debt limit. Such a loan would result in an necessary increase in the debt and in the cost of maintaining the School Department. If the School Committee of 1890 and 1891, which comprised among its members men particularly well versed in the needs of our school system, could after long consideration reach the conclusion that an annual expenditure of $200,000 to $300,000, in addition to an immediate appropriation of $550,000 to make up the “arrears," was sufficient to meet the current needs of the city in the matter