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Chapter Two

Rebuilding After the Civil War, the Compulsory Attendance Act & the School Machinery Act

Rebuilding After the Civil War
Throughout the Civil War years the public school system of North Carolina deteriorated and the Literary Fund was wiped out. The office of the Superintendent of Common Schools was abolished as well as the office of the Treasurer of the Literary Fund. The 1866-67 General Assembly allowed towns to establish tax supported public school systems, and it provided for local trustees and local boards of education.

The State Constitution, adopted in 1868, clarified North Carolina's stand on providing free education for all children of the state as well as establishing the first official State Board of Education. It consisted of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Auditor, Superintendent of Public Works, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Attorney General serving as ex-officio members. The Governor was president of the Board and the Superintendent of Public Instruction served as secretary. The first task of the Board was to rebuild the war-torn system of schools. The Board was given authorization to make all the rules and regulations for the free public schools and to manage the educational fund. Also, in 1868, the Board employed a special staff person to supervise "Negro" education. However, the Attorney General ruled that the Board did not have the authority to employ staff. The General Assembly eventually eliminated this position.

In 1869, under the constitutional provisions, the State Board of Education was assigned additional duties which included investing public school funds in bonds and securities of the state and federal government; prescribing courses of study, textbooks, and other instructional materials; and establishing procedures for examining and appointing teachers. The Constitution of 1868 also empowered the State Board of Education to elect the trustees of the University of North Carolina. This connection between the university and public schools was dissolved in a Constitutional Amendment of 1873 that reverted the authority of the election of University's trustees to the General Assembly.

The General Assembly of 1897 authorized the State Board of Education to appoint a Board of Examiners consisting of three professional teachers serving two-year terms to assist in improving preparation and training of teachers. The entire Board also served on a Textbook Commission that was established in 1901.

The Literary Fund, also referred to as the State Loan Fund, was reorganized in 1903. Its purpose was to serve as a revolving loan fund that could be used for the improvement of physical plants of existing schools and to finance construction of new buildings. Each local board's financial needs were investigated by the State Board to determine the amount to be apportioned to each district. This included the percentage allowed for building school houses.

Compulsory Attendance Act
In 1913, the first Compulsory Attendance Act was passed which required all children between the ages of eight and twelve to attend school at least four months of the year. Six years later the Constitution was amended to increase the mandated school term from four months to six months. At this time the State Board of Examiners was established as an agent of the State Board of Education to be responsible for the certification of all teachers. The General Assembly of 1921 authorized the State Board to create city school districts and placed certain normal schools under the State Board's control. The Board was permitted to organize these schools, establish rules and regulations, control expenditures, and to select principals, teachers, and members of boards of trustees.

Prior to 1931, most funding in support of public schools came from the General Assembly passing legislation allowing counties to issue bonds to build schools. The State Board of Equalization, established in 1927, was responsible for ensuring the efficient collection of property taxes for general government use, including use for education. The Board of Equalization also approved each school system's budget and acted as the governing body for public education.

School Machinery Act
The Great Depression that followed the stock market crash of 1929 resulted in a lack of funds for schools. Since schools were predominately locally funded there was not enough money to pay salaries and keep the schools open. By 1931, the General Assembly realized the county governments were unable to rescue the failing school system and took over funding of the public schools. The legislature guaranteed at least a minimal program for every county in the state. The legislation to accomplish this was known as the School Machinery Act, and it provided a free and uniform education for all children of the state. The School Machinery Act also abolished the requirement that schools must provide matching funds in order to receive state funds.

The Act provided a new body to govern state-supported schools. A State School Commission was created to replace the previous governing body, the State Board of Equalization. The new Commission and the State Board of Education were directed to establish a uniform salary schedule for all teachers and principals.

The 1940s brought significant changes to the schools in North Carolina. A constitutional amendment in 1942 established a strengthened State Board of Education. This amendment terminated the State School Commission, which had been charged with the responsibility of handling the fiscal affairs of public education. A Controller's Office was established in its place and was placed under the State Board of Education.ter the war and can be found in the North Carolina State Archives.


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