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The history of Columbia County, Wisconsin, containing an account of its settlement, growth, development and resources; an extensive and minute sketch of its cities, towns and villages--their improvements, industries, manufactories, churches, schools and societies; its war record, biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers; the whole preceded by a history of Wisconsin, statistics of the state, and an abstract of its laws and constitution and of the constitution of the United States

Searing, Edward
Educational history,   pp. [140]-151 PDF (5.5 MB)

Page 141

ing schools was provided for. One or two years later the office of town commissioners
restored, and the duties of the inspectors were assigned to the same. Other
somewhat important
amendments were made at the same time.
     In 1840, a memorial to congress from the legislature represented that
the people were
anxious to establish a common-school system, with suitable resources for
its support. From
lack of sufficient funds many of the schools were poorly organized. The rate-bill
tax or private
subscription was often necessary to supplement the scanty results of county
taxation. Until a
state government should be organized, the fund accruing from the sale of
school lands could not
be available. Congress had made to Wisconsin, as to other new states, for
educational purposes,
a donation of lands. These lands embraced the sixteenth section in every
township in the state,
the 500,ooo acres to which the state was entitled by the provisions of an
act of congress passed
in 1841, and any grant of lands from the United States, the purposes of which
were not speci-
fied. To obtain the benefits of this large fund was a leading object in forming
the state con-
                               AGITATION FOR FREE SCHOOLS.
     Shortly before the admission of the state the subject of free schools
began to be quite
widely discussed. In February, 1845, Col. M. Frank, of Kenosha, a member
of the territorial
legislature, introduced a bill, which became a law, authorizing the legal
voters of his own town
to vote taxes on all the assessed property tor the full support of its schools.
A provision of the
act required its submission to the people of the town before it could take
effect. It met with
strenuous opposition, but after many public meetings and lectures held in
the interests of public
enlightenment, the act was ratified by a small majority in the fall of 1845,
and thus the first free school
in the state was legally organized. Subsequently, in the legislature, in
the two constitutional con-
ventions, and in educational assemblies, the question of a free-school system
for the new state
soon to be organized provoked much interest and discussion. In the constitution
framed by the
convention of 1846, was provided the basis of a free-school system similar
to that in our present
constitution. The question of establishing the office of state superintendent,
more than any
other feature of the proposed school system, elicited discussion in that
body. The necessity of
this office, and the advantages of free schools supported by taxation, were
ably presented to the
convention by Hon. Henry Barnard, of Connecticut, in an evening address.
He afterward pre-
pared, by request, a draft of a free-school system, with a state superintendent
at its head, which
was accepted and subsequently embodied in the constitution and the school
law'. In the second
constitutional convention, in 1848, the same questions again received careful
attention, and the
article on education previously prepared, was, after a few changes, brought
into the shape in
which we now find it. Immediately after the ratification by the people, of
the constitution pre-
pared by the second convention, three commissioners were appointed to revise
the statutes. To
one of these, Col. Frank, the needed revision of the school laws was assigned.
The work was
acdeptably performed, and the new school code of 1849, largely the same as
the present one,
went into operation May first of that year.
     In the state constitution was laid the broad foundation of our present
school system. The
four corner stones were: (i) The guaranteed freedom of theschools; (2) the
school fund
created; (3) the system of supervision; (4) a state university for higher
instruction.  The
school fund has five distinct sources for its creation indicated in the constitution:
(i) Proceeds
from the sale of lands granted to the state by the United States for educational
purposes; (2)

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