News From 1901

The Vinton Eagle
April 2, 1901

THE PASSING OF THE COLLEGE FOR THE BLIND

The Closing of the School for the Blind.

 

Probably no event in Iowa has attracted as much attention as has the recent order of the board of control of state institutions closing the college for the blind at this place. The reason given is the exhaustion of money in one of the funds. It is the only school of its class in the state and at one time ranked at the head of similar institutions in the United States. It won first honors at the centennial exposition at Philadelphia and New Orleans and was barred to a certain extent at the World’s fair at Chicago. Before the change in manner of management in the institutions of Iowa the main and central idea in the conduct of the school was educational. All else was subordinated to this end. For the past two years the chief end has run to dollars and cents and the school has been the secondary consideration. The reports given to the public prints have been as to how cheap it has been run. How cheap the meals could be given. This has been reduced to such a minimum that many doubt the accuracy of the figures but proof was furnished. Nothing has been said as to the school.

The impression seems to have gone forth that the reason the school has been closed is because the last legislature failed to appropriate sufficient funds for its support. This is an error. The support of the institution is provided for by permanent appropriations. The board of control does not contend that it has not sufficient funds to run the institution. It did not say so when it gave out the impression that the legislature was to blame for the present condition, but the newspapers failing to catch the real reason supposed it was a lack of money and the board has not taken the trouble to correct the wrong impression. There is plenty of money. The trouble is in the interpretation place upon the law as to its use.

In this respect however the correspondent of the Marshalltown Times-Republican, probably acting as the mouth piece of the board, has undertaken to show that the Eagle is not "familiar with the record" which is very kind of him indeed. He says "that history may be kept straight it is worth while mentioning only that the 28th general assembly was informed fully of the fact that there should be a revision of the appropriations if the school was to be kept open as contemplated." The correspondent however, fails to give the facts, presuming, we suppose, that speaking for the board he would not be questioned.

Now what did the board really do?

Under the head of "necessary legislation" on page 110 of its biennial report the board recommended the following;

Third—Repeal section 2718 of the code, and insert in lieu thereof a section

providing for the appropriation of a certain per-capita sum per month for the

entire support of the institution. The object of this is to do away with the two

funds existing under the present law. The line of demarcation between the

use of these two funds is so dim and uncertain that it is hardly probable that

any two persons would agree in some cases as to what should be paid out

of one fund, and what out of the other. It serves no useful purpose to pay

teachers’ salaries and certain other expenses out of one fund, and to pay for

other matters of support out of another fund, and it will tend to certainty and

make a less number of accounts to have the one fund. We deem it a very

desirable chance to be made.

 

The above was all that was said and the records show that the attention of no committee was called to what was necessary to be done to bring these two funds together to make them operative for the general support of the school and consequently it was not done.

The peculiar language in the above recommendation is this: "The line of demarcation between these two funds is so dim and uncertain that it is hardly probable that any two persons would agree in some cases as to what should be paid out of one fund and what out of the other."

And yet, having precedents, running all the way from Gov. Carpenter to Gov. Jackson, during which time the school has been built to rank superior to any similar school in the United States, and during which time the breath of malfeasance had never ran against it, this board preferred to put a construction upon the law so technically narrow that it has ruined the school. The board may be stubborn but it will yet see that it were better for it to take the law and its appropriation as it found it and apply it as it was applied that to put a narrow construction upon it which finally led to the ruin of the school especially as none of the members of the board ever managed or operated an institution before. There are none of us so wise that we are wiser than our elders.

The responsibility for this miscarriage of public duty does not rest upon the legislature. It would have done what was necessary had it been pointed out to the proper committee. The responsibility rests with the board of control. The school has as much money now as it ever had and it is lying idle in the state treasury while the children are driven from school.

The ridiculousness of the whole situation is that the board could use money to pay under the head of "support" but could not pay a teacher under the head of "support."