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Oklahoma Education

The School We Know Today

In 1830 Massachusetts State Board of Education Secretary Horace Mann led the American Common School movement. Mann liked the idea of free, public, nonsectarian schools (common schools) available to all children. He thought we should have schools to teach ideas of civic responsibility, democracy, and Americanization. Mann also wanted more facilities, higher standards for teacher certification, and better learning environments.

Although more and more children started attending these common schools as they became available, a large population of children living in rural areas continued to be left out. However, this changed in 1907 when the Oklahoma Constitution required free, public education for all children. Communities developed more schools offering grades one through eight. This became possible because of school consolidation in which the resources of multiple, small schools were combined.

The idea of school consolidation started in 1867 after Massachusetts passed the first consolidation law. They wanted to improve the quality of academic buildings, student interaction, adult education, and county roads (because students needed transportation). This process took place in Oklahoma in 1903.

The school laws of 1913 set forth the structure for schools similar to today’s schools. It outlined types of districts that could be set up and addressed curriculum stating “in each and every district there shall be taught: Agriculture, Spelling, Reading, Penmanship, English, Grammar, Physiology, Hygiene, Geography, US History and Civics, as well as Arithmetic.”

Homeschooling

Article 13 of the Oklahoma Constitution required the legislature to establish compulsory attendance “at some public or other school unless other means of education are provided.” Wright v. State of Oklahoma (1922) required this “other means of education” to be equal to that offered by the state. In the 1957 case Sheppard v. State of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Criminal Court of Appeals ruled that the state could convict parents for failure to provide an education when they refuse to send their children to public school. At that time in Oklahoma, a reporting system for homeschooling did not exist yet.