If you’re looking for public school system history, you’ve come to the right place. From the first one-room schoolhouse to the Great Depression and the Teacher’s League, this article covers all the bases. In addition, it gives an overview of the major events that shaped our public schools.
Read on to learn more! If you’re a new parent, here are some facts about the public school system:
New York City’s common council refused to provide funds for sectarian schools
A controversy surrounding the Public School Society’s refusal to provide funds for sectarian schools stretches back to the late 1800s, when the state legislature passed a law limiting public financial support of non-public schools. As Catholic schools expanded in New York City, sectarian schools competed with public ones for the same students. In the decades that followed, the number of Irish immigrants to New York City increased dramatically. This conflict spawned the establishment of the Public School Society.
Despite the city’s opposition to the sectarian schools, the mayor appoints nine members of the council. The city’s common council rarely rejects the mayor’s proposals. But in this case, the mayor was unable to replace a minister who resigned following anti-gay writings, and another mayor’s appointee was absent due to a family emergency.
The one-room schoolhouse
The one-room schoolhouse in the public education system history is steeped in history and tradition, and its roots are as diverse as American history. In the 1850s, educational standards were just beginning to emerge. Many students attended school irregularly, some of them were illiterate, and some were proficient enough to become teachers. Though the system lasted into the midcentury in sparsely populated rural areas, it was unworkable in larger urban areas.
Educational reformers, however, considered one-room schools to be inefficient, outdated, and even dangerous.
Before the invention of public education, children in the West were taught in one-room schoolhouses. These were small, wooden buildings that held only one class, usually a single room. The students were taught by young women who shared a single room. Teachers were generally young women and often were unmarried. Teachers would arrive at school an hour before the children to draw water from a well, light a fire, and raise a flag. The school bell rang at eight in the morning.
The Great Depression
In 1932, the Depression began, and school districts everywhere were left struggling to survive. Shortage of funds forced schools to reduce hours, cut teacher salaries, and eliminate school services. School districts had to cut costs in other areas as well, and some were forced to close their doors. Schools adapted by cutting services and closing cafeterias, while others cut courses like foreign language and music. Several school districts stopped providing school supplies for the children.
In response, educators turned to the state legislature to increase funding for their schools. The NEA, an organization of teachers, lobbied for more state support. This meant that they were less reliant on local property taxes, which made it easier to sell. In the 1930s, most citizens paid their property taxes, but because of the depression, taxes were even lower. The business community also charged educators with being communists, so the fight against communism grew.
The Teacher’s League
The Teachers’ League and the public school system history is intertwined, with both organizations fighting to improve working conditions for educators and equal educational opportunities for students. Before the Teachers’ League was formed, learning to read and write was an expensive privilege and an act of social injustice for many children, especially black children. However, today, learning to read and write is a rite of passage for every American child, regardless of race, class, or disability.
After the War, the NTA began to be more inclusive, opening its membership to teachers from all ethnic groups and backgrounds. In the 19th century, female teachers enjoyed more freedom than many others, but many states still prohibited them from being married. Eventually, women were allowed to become members, and the first elected office in the Teachers’ League was held by Emily Rice in 1869. By that time, the Teacher’s League had nearly 700,000 members.