Origin Of Public Education In The Us?
Q: When did the US begin to offer free compulsory education to the public's children. I thought it was pretty early on, but it's not in the Bill of Rights or Constitution; that I can find. I thought it was right up there with the Right to Bare Arms and Free Speech as being necessary for a democracy. Did the founders enact that later? It seems to be in some State C/BoR and some country's C/BoR from searching google but I can't find it at the Federal level.
A: Jefferson tried to get Virginia to open free public schools, but the legilature didn't want to levy a school tax, so it failed. The first public schools as we know them today were in Massachussets in the1850's. That isn't to say they there wasn't a high level of literacy in some places in the colonies. Conn had modern levels of literacy before the Revolutionary war. It was not until the Education for All Handicapped act in 1975 or so that the federal government became involved in education and the setting of educational standards. This is the law that requires public schools to provide a "free and appropriate education" for handicapped children. Prior to that, there were no federal standards and very limited federal involvement (mostly limited to things like the ERIC clearinghouse for educational research papers). There is still no federal law requiring that states provide public schools or mandating the structure of those schools -- public schooling is a state function. Thus, for example, in Arizona there are now hundreds of charter schools, which receive public funding but operate like private schools (and contrary to popular belief amongst the NEA etc., many of these schools target the "hard to reach" populations that the NEA claims would not be served by charter schools). If you are talking about state-wide systems you may be correct. However, most major cities had public schools well before that time. I am most familiar with the history of education in my home state of Louisiana (since that is where I got my teaching certificate). The New Orleans public schools date back to the 1830's, and even after the Reconstruction government decided to open state-wide public schools in the late 1860's, the New Orleans public schools remained independent within that system and in fact remained independent until the 20th century. After statewide public schooling being virtually discontinued in the late 1870s and 1880's due to an armed revolt by whites who were incited by former slave owners to blame blacks for all their problems (thus causing the fall of the Reconstruction government, which required armed troops to protect polling places from being seized by the armed rebels and after the troops were withdrawn as part of the Tilden Compromise the government could no longer protect the polling places and thus suddenly all the polling places started voting for Democrats), public schools in Louisiana were mostly re-instated in their current form in the 1890's. The current Louisiana constitution was written in the early 1970's and includes a guarantee of a free and appropriate K-12 education to all Louisiana citizens. That has been the cause of many lawsuits since then, as school districts with less local tax base sue the state saying that they cannot provide an appropriate education due to lack of state funding. As part of settling those lawsuits, the current state funding formula (as of 1997 or so, I have no more recent information since I no longer work in school administration services) provides for approximately 70% of the cost of schooling, with the rest provided by local taxes, but gives more per-pupil money to school districts with less tax base in an effort to equalize funding.
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