* United States schools education legal basis








United States School System: Legislation


Figure 1.--The Southern states were slow to enact compulsory attendance laws. This photo was taken in San Antonio, Texas (October 1913). It shows the Sasser brothers, aged 10, 7 and 5 years. They all worked as newsboys and none of them never attended school. Texas enacted the first law about compulsory school attendance in 1915. Source: Library of Congress LC-DIG-nclc-03878

Laws have played an important role in building the American education system. This has included both Federal and state legislation. Early American education in colonial was primarily private or religious and pursued without a legal framework. The ephasis on education primarily occurred in the North, especially New England. This reflected the Protestant concern that everyone should read and study the Bible. This was mostly doe at the local level. The first actual legal action affecting education was a decesion of the Massachusetts General Court which required parents and guardians of children to �make certain that their charges could read and understand the principles of religion and the laws of the Commonwealth� (1642). The Southern colonies were less concerned with education, reflecting in part the dominance of the Anglican Church. The Second Continental Congress passed the Land Ordinance of 1785. This dividided the land into townships. And each townships were divided into 36 sections. This proivided the foundation of public land policy in the Northwest Territory which was establihged by the Northwest Ordinance (1787). These two laws were arguably the most important pieces of legislation in American history. It created the first American Territory and banned slavery there. The two laws accelerating America's westward expansion and provided the system by which settlers obrained possession of family farm plots at low cost. It meant that the foundation of the new northern states would be the family farm. It also designated one section of each land area for a school. This provide both land for the school and land that could be sold to finance the construction of the school. The Federal Constitution did not deal with education, but as the powers not specifically assigned to the Federal Government fell upon the states, education became a state responsibility (1789). The Federal Government did take actions to provide for the funding of public education. The Northwest Ordinance provided the economic foundation for public edcation in America. The Homestead Act (1862) continued the same system established Northwest ordinance to the area west of the Mississippi River. These laws brought mass schooling and literacy to the the United States giving it a public school system matched only by a few European countries (Germany and Switzerland). The public school system proved vital in educating Americans. It is fascinating in reading Civil War letters the number of soldiers with only a limited education that understood the issues for which they were fighting. The public school system played arole in the outpouring of innovations an inventions that fed into America's industrial expansion after the Civil War (1861-65). The public school system also played a central role in Americanizing the flood of immigrants which began with the Irish (1840s) and contined from a host of different countries after the Civil War. This was vital in establish social order and the adopting of American values and cultural norms. School officials, mostly Protestants from northern Europe, were concerned about the parents, especially immigrant parents from southern Europe. And the parents, often Catholic, were concerned about the motly Protestant school officials. The led to the rise of parochial schools. America did not have, however, a national education system. but a collection of many different state systems. The legal development of American public education thus proceeded at state level. The Southern states and some other states like Kansas created racial seggregated public schools. The basic issue was compulsory attendance. Slowly these laws were passed an the age level raised. This proceeded slowly in the South where legislators were more concerned with costs and had little desire to educate Black children. While Congress was unable to act, the Supreme Court struck down public school segregation (1954).

Public Education

Laws have played an important role in building the American education system. This has included both Federal and state legislation. Early American education in colonial was primarily private or religious and pursued without a legal framework. The ephasis on education primarily occurred in the North, especially New England. This reflected the Protestant concern that everyone should read and study the Bible. This was mostly doe at the local level. The first actual legal action affecting education was a decesion of the Massachusetts General Court which required parents and guardians of children to �make certain that their charges could read and understand the principles of religion and the laws of the Commonwealth� (1642). The Southern colonies were less concerned with education, reflecting in part the dominance of the Anglican Church. The Second Continental Congress passed the Land Ordinance of 1785. This dividided the land into townships. And each townships were divided into 36 sections. This proivided the foundation of public land policy in the Northwest Territory which was establihged by the Northwest Ordinance (1787). These two laws were arguably the most important pieces of legislation in American history. It created the first American Territory and banned slavery there. The two laws accelerating America's westward expansion and provided the system by which settlers obrained possession of family farm plots at low cost. It meant that the foundation of the new northern states would be the family farm. It also designated one section of each land area for a school. This provide both land for the school and land that could be sold to finance the construction of the school. The Federal Constitution did not deal with education, but as the powers not specifically assigned to the Federal Government fell upon the states, education became a state responsibility (1789). The Federal Government did take actions to provide for the funding of public education. The Northwest Ordinance provided the economic foundation for public edcation in America. The Homestead Act (1862) continued the same system established Northwest ordinance to the area west of the Mississippi River. These laws brought mass schooling and literacy to the the United States giving it a public school system matched only by a few European countries (Germany and Switzerland).

Impact

The public school system proved vital in educating Americans. It is fascinating in reading Civil War letters the number of soldiers with only a limited education that understood the issues for which they were fighting. The public school system played arole in the outpouring of innovations an inventions that fed into America's industrial expansion after the Civil War (1861-65). The public school system also played a central role in Americanizing the flood of immigrants which began with the Irish (1840s) and contined from a host of different countries after the Civil War. This was vital in establish social order and the adopting of American values and cultural norms.

Parochial Schools

School officials, mostly Protestants from northern Europe, were concerned about the parents, especially immigrant parents from southern Europe. And the parents, often Catholic, were concerned about the motly Protestant school officials. The led to the rise of parochial schools.

Compulsory School Attendance

Strrongly associated with the fightvfor child labor laws is the struggle for compulsurty school attendance laws. Even before the foundation of the United States, the colonies, especially the northern colonies, had begun to found public schools. The Protestant foundtion of America was a factor here. While public education had an early start, cimpulsory education was a very different matter. The first such law we know of the Massachusetts Bay Colony mandating that parents provide religious instruction for their children. The inintial impulse for compulsory attebance laws was distrust of the parents. The various states went on to found an excellent public school system. Compulsory education was different. It was not until the late-19th century that compulsory education began to become standard. Again it was the northern states that led the way. At and this tim a different issue drive the enactment of coompulsory attendance lws -- child labor. Child labor laws bcame a major goal of the progressive movemnt, bith as a child welfare issue and also to reduce competition with adult workers. Child labor laws proved controvrsial in many states. And the courts struck them down. Compulsory school attendance laws proved less controversial and the courts did not take issue with them like child labor laws. As a result, compulsory attendance laws often precceded child labor laws. They were a way of getting at the problem. Obviously if a child was in school during the day, it limited employment posibilities. Some states like Oregon enacted very strict compulsory public school attendance laws that would have outlawed private schools. The Supreme Court struck this down with the Pierce v. Society of Sisters decision (1925). The Court held unconstitutional an Oregon compulsory attendance law that required children to only attend public schools. Long after the child labor issues had been settld, other issues about school attendance lawsa emrged. The Supreme Court found in Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) that parents had the right to opt out of compulsory attendance for religious reasons.

State Systems

America did not have, however, a national education system. but a collection of many different state systems. The legal development of American public education thus proceeded at state level.

Segregation

The Southern states and some other states like Kansas created racial seggregated public schools. The basic issue was compulsory attendance. Slowly these laws were passed an the age level raised. This proceeded slowly in the South where legislators were more concerned with costs and had little desire to educate Black children. While Congress was unable to act, the Supreme Court struck down public school segregation (1954).








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Created: 9:37 PM 2/6/2013
Last updated: 3:35 AM 1/16/2017