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The necessity for the amendment of the Education Act with a view to making better provision for the election of School Committees was very clearly demonstrated by the proceedings at the householders* meeting held at the Borough Schoolroom on Wednesday night. This, the second attempt to elect a Committee,.! had been rendered necessary by the absurd provision of Section 64, which insists upon a ballot being taken, even when, as had happened on the first occasion, only the required number of persons to be elected are nominated ; and though no farther difficulty in this direction was possible on Wednesday, inasmuch as there were no less than sixteen nomination!, the validity of the election was nevertheless challenged— this time on the new ground of the true intent and meaning of the word " householder " as defined in the interpretation clause (Section 4). The Chairman ruled— and we think rightly -—that while to entitle to be elected the person nominated must be resident within the school district, such residence is not necessarily required to entitle to a vote in the election. The words of Section 4 are "Householder, means every adult male or female person who as owner, or tenant, lessee, or occupier, occupies, uses or resides in any dwellinghouse, shop, warehouse, or other building in any district, or every parent or guardian who is liable to maintain or has the actual custody of any child." (The italics are our own.) From this it is perfectly dear that the use of any premises in the particular school district (at the very least, for tha words any district are certainly open to a wider interpretation) qualifies to vote, and parentage or guardianship of any child is also distinctly stated as an alternative qualification, quite irrespective of the locality of such parent or guardian's residence. This may not have been the intention of the framers of the Act, but it ib impossible to seek for hidden meanings in the interpretation of the law, which must be read and construed according to the natural interpretation of the laoguage used, and the plain and simple construction of the words in question is undoubtedly that put upon them by the Chairman of the meeting. Nevertheless it was challenged, and the question as to who is right will be referred to the Education Board, which, if it dissents from the Chairman's ruling, and finds that persons voted who are not householders within the true meaning of the Act, can again declare the election void, The position is rendered all the more interesting and remarkable in that the question has been raised by the candidate who headed the poll, and was afterwards elected Chairman of the Committee, and who will, at one and the same time, have to report his own election as Chairman to the Board, and also to protest against his own election as a member of . Committee — the necessary condition precedent to his election as Chairman, Surely it is high time that the Educational Franchise Bill, which has no less than six times been carried in the House of Hepresentatives by Major Steward, were accepted by the Upper Chamber, as the measure referred to would at once remove all difficulty on this head by giring a clear and unmistakable definition of what a "house* holder" is for the purposes of the Education Act " The simplest and beßt definition would, however, we think, be the following:— "Householder means the head of every household situated within the school district, or whereof any child attending the school is a resident member." But while our legislators are about it, they may as well also take notice of a curious lapsus which now occurs in the Education Act, to which we have not hitherto seen attention directed. It occurs in Section 64, where, in making provision for the annual elections, it is directed that "the electors present shall proceed to elect by ballot as hereinafter provided a new Committee," etc. Now there is no provision whatever thereinafter made, no farther reference being made to the matter at all, and it is therefore quite possible to contend that no Committee could ever have been duly elected under the Act, inasmuch as it is prescribed that the election must be conducted in accordance with certain to ie specified provisions which provisions were never specified at all. This difficulty has, however, hitherto been got over by treating the words "as hereinafter provided" as mere surplusage, but, being mere surplusage, they may as well be repealed and struck out. The Legislature will also do well to remove the present anomalous condition of things under whioh it is possible not only for the master of a school to be elected as a Committeeman, and to become Chairman of the Committee, but even, in the case of a large school, with many masters, for a majority of the Committee (through the manipulation of the cumulative vote), to be composed of school teachers, who would thus govern the affairs of the school at their own pleasure. Certainly employees in State Schools, and paid servants of the Eduoation Boards should be disqualified to be elected, even if not disqualified to vote in School Committee elections. That the Cumulative vote works wholly unsatisfactorily, there is an enormous preponderance of testimony, and that the introduction of " prior nomination" would be a manifest improvement on the present system is also generally conceded. All these matters are provided for in the Educational Franchise Bill, and we Bee that all three points, viz. Better definition of the word householder, repeal of the cumulative vote, and the institution of prior nomination hate again been affirmed as desirable and necessary amendments of our educational machinery by the Otago Schools Conference. Let us hope therefore, that if next session the Franchise Bill once more reaches the Upper Chamber, our Colonial '*« Lords " will at this, the seventh , time of asking give their longdelayed consent to a useful and muchdesired amendment of the law.

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Bibliographic details

THE ELECTION OF SCHOOL COMMITTEES., Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2140, 1 June 1889

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THE ELECTION OF SCHOOL COMMITTEES. Ashburton Guardian, Volume VII, Issue 2140, 1 June 1889