History of Public School Education in Arizona/Chapter 5

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Chapter V.


The next period in the history of the Arizona public schools opens with a readjustment of one of the questions of patronage. The law of 1871 had made the governor Territorial superintendent of public instruction ex officio. That remained the law until the act of February 14, 1879. This law authorized the governor to appoint a substitute to perform the duties which the law of 1871 had assigned to him, and then provided that in 1880 and thereafter the superintendent should be chosen by the people at the regular election every second year. Supt. Sherman, who was appointed by Gov. Frémont in 1879, was chosen by popular vote at the regular election in 1880; and so was Supt. Horton, in 1882, without discussion or challenge. In 1884 Robert Lindley Long was elected. But with the opening of the legislative session of 1885 Gov. Tritle, relying on section 1857 of the Revised Statutes of the United States, in a communication to the council on February 13, 1885, declared that the appointment of the Territorial superintendent of public instruction was a duty which clearly fell within the limits of his prerogatives, but since Mr. Long had already been chosen by the people and had received the certificate of election, he was now formally appointed by Gov. Tritle to fill the office, and his confirmation asked of the council. There was no formal objection to this claim and Mr. Long was confirmed by unanimous vote. During the remainder of the Territorial period the office remained subject to appointment by the governor, to whom, under the law, the right clearly pertained.[1]

Of the school situation at this time McCrea says:

By 1885 the school system of Arizona was ready to begin developments along broader lines. * * * It would seem that the time had come not only to mold the school law into more permanent form, but also to add higher institutions of learning, if a self-sufficing Commonwealth was to be built up in the heart of the American desert. Nor was the Territory lacking in financial ability to take a great forward step in education. The assessed valuation of its property in 1884 was over $30,000,000. Its real value was probably more than double that sum. But the financial condition of the Territory was not so satisfactory. * * * The auditor recommended a considerable increase in taxation, but the governor thought this might be avoided by more efficient methods of taxation and by proper economy. * * * Mining, farming, and stock raising were all making great progress in the Territory, which enjoyed a prosperity not shared in by the country as a whole. It was under such conditions that the legislative assembly convened in 1885. In its work for education no other assembly bears comparison with it except that of 1871, when the school system was brought into existence and given a definite form.[2]

In his message to the assembly of that year, Gov. Tritle urged that the office of county superintendent be made distinct from that of probate judge; that the discretion of school trustees be limited and that some improvement be made in the levying of school taxes. He urged also that Congress grant authority to sell the sixteenth sections, but no authority to lease these lands was asked. McCrea has pointed out that a request for power to lease might have brought a favorable response and produced a handsome revenue for the schools. He remarks also that the assembly of 1885 made a larger appropriation for the work of the superintendent than had ever been made before. This was $6,700 for two years.

One marked characteristic of Arizona from 1871 to the time now under consideration was the evolutionary character of the school law. beginning with the law of 1871, there had been no sudden or violent change in the characteristics of the law. The first draft contained only the more essential elements of a school system. Then came revisions and extensions in 1873, 1875, 1879, 1883, and again in 1885. During all this period there was little deviation from the normal. The law was extended, developed, and revised to conform more nearly to new conditions. There was no violent change in the system. It can be accurately said that while more inclusive the law of 1885, and that of 1887, which appears as its final form, was only the act of 1871 writ large. The law of 1885 goes into great detail and defines with minute exactness the duties of the various branches of the school service; little was left to the imagination or to chance.

The main alterations and additions which differentiate the law of 1885 from earlier ones, together with the further perfected forms as seen in the law of 1887, are summarized in the section which follows.


Like the school law of 1883, that passed on March 12, 1885, has the merit of being a serious detailed codification and revisal of the body of the school law. It was rearranged, improved, pruned, and added to.

The power and duties of the Territorial board of education are defined; the old Territorial certificates were revoked; and under the new law “Territorial educational diplomas” were given only to those who had held a first-grade Territorial or county certificate for a year and had taught for at least 5 years, while the “life diploma” now required 10 years of teaching instead of 5.

An entirely new feature, the Territorial board of examiners, consisting of the superintendent of public instruction and two competent persons appointed by him, was created and its duties defined. Its main duty was to prepare questions for the use of county boards of examiners, to grant recommendations for life and educational diplomas, grant Territorial diplomas, etc., and fix rules governing the same. For a first-grade Territorial certificate good for four years the applicant was required to pass on algebra, physiology, natural philosophy, geography, history, and Constitution of the United States, orthography, defining, penmanship, reading, method of teaching, grammar, arithmetic, and the school laws of Arizona. Applicants for the second-grade certificate, good for three years, must pass on all the above except the first three—algebra, physiology, and natural philosophy. Normal and life diplomas from other States were accepted as evidences of fitness without examination. Only the Territorial certificate of the first grade gave authority to teach in the grammar schools.

The Territorial superintendent was now given authority “to investigate all accounts of school moneys kept by any Territorial, county, or district officer,” and was given also a closer and more direct control over school libraries. The law of 1887 released him from the obligation to visit the counties. It will be noticed, however, that the new control of the money power of the schools greatly increased the superintendent’s prestige and power.

The probate judges were continued as ex officio county superintendents, and their salaries as such fixed by law. These ranged from $600 in Yavapai down to $300 in Gila, Mohave, and Yuma. The act of 1887 made it $300 in each county. Their duties were defined minutely and a series of penalties introduced, which ranged from $25 for failing to visit any school in the county to $100 for failure to make reports.[3] The duties were detailed and exacting. They included greatly extended power over the county school funds and were evidently more than any single man could manage. For these reasons the county superintendent was permitted to appoint a deputy, but no salary out of the school funds was allowed such deputy.

Teachers’ institutes covering a period of from three to five days were permitted by the law of 1885 and required by that of 1887 in counties having 10 or more school districts, and, as under the earlier law, teachers then conducting schools were granted the right to attend without loss of salary. The total expense of such county institutes was not to exced $25.

The superintendent of public instruction was to appoint two persons, who, with the county superintendent, were to constitute the board of county examiners. They met quarterly, examined teachers from questions furnished by the Territorial board, enforced the uniform textbooks, and the course of study in the schools.

Each school district was given corporate powers, and “every county, city, or incorporated town, unless subdivided by proper authority, forms a school district.” As in the old law, each new district must have at least 10 school census children who must be at least 2 miles from any schoolhouse. The school district trustees were to be elected, one each year, and their duties were closely and elaborately defined. In Apache and Graham women were not allowed to vote in their election (repealed in 1887). All work was based on the primary and grammar grades, 10 months was counted as a school year, and ti was now directed that the schools be taught in English. Instruction was required in reading, writing, orthography, arithmetic, geography, grammar, history of the United States, elements of physiology and of bookkeeping (hygiene was added in 1887), industrial drawing, “and such other studies as the Territorial board of education may prescribe, but no such other studies can be pursued to the neglect or exclusion of the studies enumerated.” Supplies but not textbooks were furnished free. The section in regard to books and tracts of a sectarian character was retained.

The Territorial tax rate was reduced to 3 cents per $100 of taxable property and the county rate was made not more than 75 cents on the hundred (law of 1887 went back to the old limitations, between 50 and 80 cents) nor less than a rate necessary to raise funds sufficient to meet the requirements of the law. When the Territorial and county funds were not sufficient to provide buildings and run the schools at least five months, the remainder must be raised by local tax, and if any additional sum was wanted it might, as in the old law, be raised by a two-thirds vote of the taxpayers.

The school money, both Territorial and county, was apportioned by allowing for each teacher, calculating one teacher to 80 children or fraction thereof (changed in 1887 to one teacher for 15 to 50 pupils), the sum of $500; but in districts where there were between 10 and 15 children only the district received $400; the law of 1887 gave $250 to districts with from 5 to 10 children. If any funds remained, they were apportioned to districts with not less than 30 children, and no school was entitled to apportionment that had not maintained a school at least five months during the preceding year. This act,[4] as revised in 1887 and with a few later amendments, remained the school law of Arizona until 1907, when it was again revised.[5]

Of the law of 1885 and of the particular reasons for some of its main provisions McCrea says:[6]

During the time the assembly was in session the school law of 1883 was subjected to a revision from which it emerged in about the shape it has ever since borne. This work was performed by those best qualified to do it well—i. e., by the outgoing [Horton] and incoming [Long] superintendents of public instruction, and the assembly showed its wisdom by framing the law much as suggested by those officers. * * * That the standard of scholarship among teachers might be raised and superior teachers induced to come to the Territory, a Territorial board of examiners was created to supervise the work of the several boards of county examiners and to issue certificates good throughout the Territory upon certain credentials and upon examination papers forwarded to them from the various counties. The credentials upon which certificates could be issued without examination were definitely fixed in the law, also the branches upon which teachers must be examined for certificates. Such things had been too largely left to the discretion of boards of examiners in the past.

This assembly made an effort to arrange a more satisfactory plan of school taxation. As three new institutions had been created which must have buildings and maintenance from Territorial taxation, it was thought best to reduce the Territorial school tax to a nominal figure. With the handsome balances with which every county had closed each of the last two school years the legislature had reason for believing that the new plan for levying the county school tax would relieve the Territory of further responsibility in supporting common schools. Then district taxes might sooner be resorted to to lengthen the term than heretofore, though no such use had been made of the tax in any county during the last two years.

Every school law since that of 1871 had contained provisions against the introduction of tracts or papers of a sectarian character into the public school, also against the teaching of any sectarian doctrine in them. For some reason this was not believed to be drastic enough, and a section was added to the law which provided for revoking teachers’ certificates for using in their schools sectarian or denominational books, for teaching in them any sectarian doctrine, or for conducting any religious exercise therein. The lawmakers evidently aimed to relegate all religious teaching to the home and the church. The prohibiting of “religious exercises” in schools has met with strong condemnation from many Protestant church members, but with the variety of religious creeds represented in the Territory it is doubtful whether a better policy could have been found.

For the first time in the Arizona school law there was a recognition of the work of the schools in training the youth for citizenship, and the provision was of such a broad and general character that the criticism on the religious prohibition loses much of its force.


It is now possible to turn from the law itself to a consideration of its execution and the development of the schools during the period.

The third Territorial superintendent of public instruction of Arizona was Robert Lindley Long, a Pennsylvanian, who had been in Arizona since 1877. He was principal of the public schools of Phoenix in 1879–80 and again in 1890–91; in 1881–1884 he lived in Globe, and held the offices of clerk of the district court and probate judge and ex officio county superintendent of schools of Gila County. In 1884 he was a candidate for the office of Territorial superintendent, and was elected by the people, but as the national administration had gone Democratic it was thought well to make his office a little more secure by giving him an appointment by the governor. He served two years, and was succeeded in 1887 by Charles M. Strauss. In 1888–1890 he was principal of the Territorial normal school at Tempe; in 1899–1902 and 1906–1909 he was again Territorial superintendent. Altogether he filled the office for nearly 10 years, a longer period of service than any other officer has attained.

After assisting in drawing the school bill and putting it through the legislature of 1885 it became Mr. Long’s duty to attend to its enforcement and the execution of its provisions.

One of the most important duties that confronted him during the early days of his administration was the organization—perhaps more accurately the reorganization—of the Territorial board of education and the adoption of rules and regulations for the government of the public schools. The Territorial school organization now began to actually control the public schools. Mr. Sherman, the first Territorial superintendent, though nominally at the head of a Territorial system, had contented himself by sticking to his school principalship at Prescott, and had done practically nothing toward bringing the disconnected and independent parts of a Territorial system into union one with another. William B. Horton, the second superintendent, had made a beginning in this direction, but it was not a thing which could be perfected in a single administration, and this was one of the earliest matters to which Supt. Long turned his attention.

His work was to adjust, consolidate, and develop a true Territorial system. This was to be done through the Territorial board of education and a course of study.

Minute and careful rules were drawn by the board for the direction and control of teachers and pupils, hours of study and of recreation, care of schoolrooms and houses, and all similar matters. The use of the texts required by law was rigidly enforced, but there were as yet no free textbooks except that, in certain cases, “books may be furnished to indigent children by the trustees, at the expense of the districts, whenever the teacher shall have certified in writing that the pupil applying is unable to purchase such books.” The means of enforcing these directions for teachers and these rules and regulations for pupils were left mainly in the hands of the teachers themselves. The local trustees had general control, but it is well known that they do little. The Territorial superintendent could not possibly make the rounds of all the schools, and was released from the requirement to do so in 1887; the county superintendent was instructed “to enforce” the laws and regulations, and made visits to the school from time to time, but as he was not required by any law to visit the schools under his jurisdiction after 1887, and as his official duties at the county seat gave him no leisure for such visits, at best his supervision would be at long range and so of little effect. But, nevertheless, this was a beginning of State supervision and represents the preliminary steps in Territorial control. In the same way the board drew up and promulgated rules for the administration of the district-school libraries, which were beginning, under the encouragement of the law, to spring up in the more prosperous and progressive communities. The board did not materially change the course of study; it added to the course such branches as are usually taught in high schools, and authorized the districts with superior facilities to organize high-school classes when there were funds available and pupils to make use of the opportunities offered. The textbooks adopted in 1881, with a single exception, were retained, and texts for teaching the effects of alcohol and narcotics were added. The board of Territorial examiners, created by the law of 1885, was now organized for the first time. It consisted of the superintendent and two other persons appointed by him. Rules and regulations for the use and direction of the county examiners were promulgated, and an examination for the general use of these officers was provided. These examinations were to be held in the counties and the papers were returned to the Territorial board, which issued the diplomas. The old Territorial diplomas were revoked, and now three classes only of diplomas were issued: (1) To those holding diplomas issued in States with educational requirements equal to those in Arizona; (2) to graduates of normal schools; (3) to those passing the Territorial examination.

The superintendent published in his report one of the series of examinations that were set for teachers. It was long and searching in character. It required an extensive acquaintance with primary and secondary work and that the applicant be well prepared for the classroom. The examination was made for the subjects covered in the law, including the school law itself. It made possible the organization and development of high-school work without further machinery whenever pupils were ready to avail themselves of such opportunities and wherever the schools were financially capable of providing them. The primary and grammar courses covered the first seven grades; to this two years of high-school work was to be added.

There is given in this report statistics and an account of the organization of the first Territorial normal school at Tempe, which will be considered in another connection. In his own summary and discussion of the statistics, Mr. Long points out that there were in the Territory 10,219 children between 6 and 18 years, which was then the school age, and 4,502 between 8 and 14 years, the compulsory age. Of these, 4,974 attended school in 1884–85 and 6,072 in 1885–86. In 1885 there were in addition 1,024 children in private schools. It may be assumed that most of these were Catholic Church schools, as the Protestants generally either accepted the work of the public schools as sufficient or were too weak to organize schools for themselves. Based on the figures for 1884–85, it was thought that perhaps as many as 7,100 children were in school during 1885–86. The average attendance in the public schools was not so satisfactory; in 1884–85 it was 3,226, or 64.9 per cent of the enrollment; and in 1885–86, 3,507, or 57.7 per cent of enrollment.

Twenty-one new districts had been organized, and while some of the new buildings were erected to replace old ones, the majority were in districts where none had existed before. New buildings and their appurtenances cost about $48,000. The funds to meet these expenses were raised by special taxes and by bond issues.[7] Thirteen primary schools had been evolved into grammar-grade schools, and while the whole number of schools in 1884 was 121, in 1886 it had grown to 150. Through purchase and donations 1,930 books had been secured for the public-school libraries in 1885–86, as against 1,171 volumes in 1884–85. Of the teachers, 86 had first-grade certificates, of whom 25 were employed in the grammar and high school grades, leaving 61 for the primary and grammar grades, showing that about one-half the schools were enjoying the services of first-grade teachers. At the end of his term the superintendent was able to say:

It may be safely asserted the public schools of Arizona are in charge of as competent a body of teachers as can be found anywhere.

The law of 1885 reduced the Territorial tax to 3 cents on the hundred,[8] and as a result, as Supt. Long says in his report:

Under the present law the cost of maintaining the schools devolves on the counties and is not shared by the Territory at large. * * * The revenue raised by the counties for the support of the schools during the past year, while it nearly equaled the sum obtained in 1884–85 from this source, was inadequate to a maintenance of the schools for the proper length of time. Boards of supervisors in some instances disregarded the estimates upon which the minimum rate of tax is based, as furnished by the superintendents, and in other cases no estimates were furnished, or if made at all, were based on erroneous calculations. As supervisors generally make as small a levy as possible under the law, no result could follow but a scarcity of funds.

This falling off in school income in 1885–86 as compared with the previous year was as follows, as given by Long: The amount for 1884–85 was $144,350.29 and in 1885–86 it was $114,863.43. The Territorial tax fell from $22,789.60 to $10,662.06; the miscellaneous receipts from $25,292.53 to $18,760.12; the county tax was off about $2,000[9] and the gift of $8,500 for a normal school in 1884–85 was omitted the next year. The total deficit of 1885–86, as compared with 1884–85, was no less than $29,496.86. But by using the balances that had come over from the full years, and by exercising more carefully the gift of economy, the superintendent was able to carry the schools through the latter year without a deficit, although the total number of schools was increased from 137 to 150 and the total enrollment rose from 4,974 to 6,076. Unfortunately, 22 days were lost from the school term, as compared with the year before, and it is probable that a part of this burden was placed on the shoulders of the teachers, for the salary of men dropped from $91 to $80.45, and of women from $84 to $76.18. The total expenditures in 1884–85 were $141,264.83, and in 1885–86, $144,868.99.[10]

The school system at this time was becoming highly centralized. The superintendent, the governor, and the Territorial treasurer composed the Territorial board of education; as the other members were ex officio, they would be disposed to leave the active administration of the board to the Territorial superintendent, who prepared its rules and regulations and its courses of study. The Territorial superintendent and two other members appointed by him composed the Territorial board of examiners, and the superintendent appointed also two of the three members of the county board of examiners. The county superintendents were required to make reports under heavy penalty. This centralizing tendency was negatived to a certain extent, however, by the inability of the superintendent to follow up his subordinates with a close supervision. True, certain funds were assigned him for traveling, and he visited the schools when possible; but the funds given were limited in amount ($500 per year), the territory to be covered was great, and the duties at the capital were becoming all the time more and more important and imperative.

Supt. Long visited each county during each year of his administration and concluded from his observations that the Territory had made progress during the two years in the following particulars: The enrollment and the average daily attendance had largely increased; more and better schoolhouses had been erected and supplied with better furniture and school apparatus; teachers were better qualified, and as a result pupils were better taught; funds were being more judiciously expended; back of all these, public opinion was growing to a more intelligent appreciation of the schools and of their wants.

The school situation as it was then developing must have given much pleasure to the friends of education and enlightenment. The Territorial system had started on an independent career with Sherman in 1879 and had gone its own way with little supervision until 1883. Then came Horton, who was really first to undertake the organization of the Territorial system. He made some progress; the law of 1883 was a step in the right direction; then, in 1885, the old superintendent (Horton) and the new (Long) put their heads together and evolved a still better law, which, under the pressure of actual working conditions, was somewhat modified in 1887, A beginning in high-school work had appeared about 1883. Provisions were made in 1885 for a university and the normal school at Tempe, and the latter began to furnish teachers. The outlines of a complete Territorial system were visible, and in 1885 a uniform course of study was adopted, but was unfortunately soon abandoned. The last year of Long’s administration seems to mark the crest of the wave of progress; with the incoming of Strauss retrogression became more and more marked.

There were, however, unquestionably serious drawbacks in the school situation. In the first place, the schools were in polities, and any change in the control of national parties in Washington was felt in the public-school superintendency in Arizona. The result of this was bad. Every governor appointed his own friends to office, and as a result there was a rapid succession of officials, who, however earnest and devoted, were handicapped by inexperience. By the time they had learned their duties they were ready to give way to other untrained men.

  1. Legislative Jour., Arizona, 1885, pp. 423–24.
  2. McCrea, loc. cit., p. 119.
  3. The act of 1887 released the county superintendent from the duty of visiting, and the fine for failure to report was reduced one-half.
  4. Sess. Laws of Arizona, 1885, pp. 138_170; Rev. Stat. of 1887 and School Laws of 1887 (separate). Act of 1887 passed on March 10.
  5. Law approved Mar. 15, 1901.
  6. See McCrea, in Long’s Report, 1908, pp. 121–122.
  7. In 1885 $12,000 in bonds was issued for school purposes by Florence, in Pinal County. (Sess. Acts, 1885, ch. 3.) Graham County also issued $8,000 of bonds (chs. 111 and 112) for the town of Clifton.
  8. This was possibly brought about indirectly by the act of 1885, which reduced the upper county limit from 80 cents to 75 cents, but the law of 1887 went back to 80 cents. The reduction of the upper limit would undoubtedly suggest the reduction of the rate actually levied.
  9. Under the law of 1879 this tax was 15 cents, and the same under the law of 1883.
  10. These are the figures given by Long in his report for 1885–86. In the report for 1889–90 figures varying from the above for these same items are given and are followed in the statistical table at the end of this study. The student of school reports is constantly harassed by different sets of figures covering the same items, but conflicting with each other, probably neither being entirely correct.