Important developments in Education prior to the Johnson Administration.
1785—The Land Ordinance of 1785 creates the township grid method of survey, replacing the old “metes and bounds” system used by the early colonials. Each township has thirty-six sections (one square mile each) and section 16 is reserved for the support of public schools.
1787—The Northwest Ordinance established criteria for parts of the Northwest Territory (Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin) to achieve statehood. Slavery is outlawed in the territory. “…religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”
1862—The Morrill Act provided for the donation of public lands to the several states and territories which could provide for “land grant” colleges to teach agriculture and mechanical arts.
1864—Gallaudet University, the world’s only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard-of-hearing students, was founded by an Act of Congress. Its charter was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
1867—Congress established the first independent federal “Department of Education” under the Interior Department (1869-1939). It eventually became the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1953.
1896—Plessy v. Ferguson was one of a combination of rulings passed by the United States Supreme Court and some state supreme courts after Reconstruction. The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of separate areas for black and whites as long as they were equal, a decision which would prove to hold for almost 60 years until being overruled. (See Brown v. Board of Education, 1954)
1917—The Smith-Hughes Act, passed during President Wilson’s administration, provided federal funds to support the teaching of vocational education. Funds were used to train agriculture, home economics and commercial and industrial trades teachers.
1929—The Great Depression begins with the stock market crash in October. The United States’ economy is devastated and public education funding suffers greatly, resulting in school closings, lower salaries, and teacher layoffs.
1935—The Works Progress Administration was authorized by Congress to put the unemployed to work on public projects, including the construction of hundreds of school buildings.
1940—The Lanham Act authorized Federal aid to local governments to build and operate schools and other public facilities in areas where the population was sharply increasing due to defense-related activities while the tax base was shrinking because the Federal government was acquiring more land for those same activities. In later legislation, these areas would be called “impacted areas.”
1941—The United States entered World War II after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor. During the next four years, much of the country’s resources go to the war effort. Education was “put on the back burner” as many young men quit school to enlist in the armed services. Schools were faced with personnel problems as teachers and other employees enlist, were drafted, or left to work in defense plants. School construction was put on hold.
1944—The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (G.I. Bill) was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt. World War II veterans took advantage of the bill during the seven years it was offered. More than two million attended colleges or universities, nearly doubling the college population. About 238,000 became teachers. Because the law provided the same opportunities to every veteran, the long-standing tradition that a college education was only for the wealthy was broken.
1946—The National School Lunch Act gave aid and funds for a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provided nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program continues to provide free and low-cost lunches to school children.
1947—President Truman’s “Fair Deal” made education aid a key point in his legislative proposals. Three million dollars was proposed but there was controversy over aid to private schools due to the issue of parochial schools (separation of church and state). As a result of this disagreement, no aid to education legislation passed.
1948—The National Science Foundation was established by Congress “to promote basic scientific research and education of future scientists and to establish and coordinate national scientific policies.”
1952—The Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act modified the G.I. Bill for Korean War veterans.
1953—In May the first educational television station, KUHT-TV, began broadcasting from the University of Houston in Houston, Texas.
1954—Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas ended the “separate but equal” doctrine by upholding equal protection under the law of the 14th Amendment.
The Agricultural Act authorized the Commodity Credit Corporation to spend up to $50 million annually to supply school milk to aid non-profit schools, summer camps, and child-care institutions.
1957—The U.S. Congress took the first steps to aid the handicapped since the 19th century by passing legislation to fund research and provide grants for research on education of the mentally handicapped.
Sputnik is launched by the Soviet Union. Confidence in the United States’ economic, military and scientific superiority was questioned and national security was threatened. Public schools became the targets for the failures and became “the first line of defense.”
1958—The National Defense Education Act provided aid to education in the United States at all levels—public and private. It was instituted primarily to stimulate the advancement of education in science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages. It also provided aid in other areas, including technical education, geography, English as a second language, counseling and guidance, school libraries and librarianship, and educational media centers.
1961—President Kennedy was unsuccessful in getting school aid legislation passed due to opposition from Republicans and Southern Democrats, especially those in the House Rules Committee. Racial and religious issues remained decisive, with the Catholic Church aiding in defeating bills that did not include funding for private schools.
1962—In Murray v. Curlett the United States Supreme Court declared prayer in public schools unconstitutional.