PUBLIC education in New Jersey developed somewhat slowly during the first two centuries of the State's history. The progress achieved in converting the Colonial log schoolhouse into the post-Revolutionary academy was limited by the persistent idea that only those who could pay were entitled to an education. In the last 70 years the united resources of the State have replaced the academy with the present free school system.
The most important single advance in education was the legislative act of 1871 which abolished all fees for instruction in public schools. Opportunities for rich and poor were thus placed on a common level. The hickory stick and the lash gradually went the way of the one-room building. Even the kindergarten system, founded by enterprising women as a means of making a living, was taken over by the State.
Cornerstone accomplishments in building an educational program were the creation of a State-controlled system of training teachers in normal schools, the consolidation of small, weak rural schools into larger and stronger units, the development of a State-wide system of high schools, and the founding of a State college with free scholarships. Federal funds have made possible many additions to public school buildings in the past five years. In the broadening field of adult education Perth Amboy and the South Orange-Maplewood union have established notable lecture and training courses that are being imitated throughout the State.
For the school year of 1936-37, the school system had an enrollment of 779,713 pupils, of whom .192,757 were in high schools. The complete educational program of that year cost $103,425,026 and employed 28,256 teachers. The average annual salary of day school teachers was $1,898 -- a decrease of $245 since 1931. Publicly owned school buildings numbered 2,171, besides 31 rented structures. Value of buildings, land and equipment was listed at $341,111,987, and the net State school debt was about $198,000,000.
Such has been the rise of what its opponents of a century ago bitterly opposed as "a pauper system."
Once the early Dutch, Swedish, and English settlers had successfully