California Educator

October 2013

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CALIFORNIA TEACHERS ASSOCIATION I 150th Anniversary This year, we're celebrating CTA's 150 years of advocacy for the teaching profession and education excellence. As part of the sesquicentennial activities, a commemorative publication illustrating CTA's history will be available online at This is an excerpt from that publication. MAKING VOICES HEARD A Brief History of CTA's Founding BY CRAIG COLLINS D espite the riches that had drawn many Americans to California in the mid-19th century, the new state, admitted to the Union in 1850, had far to go in establishing a free and comprehensive school system. The rudiments were there – the first state constitution called for a "system of common schools" and an elected state superintendent – but for years there was no state source of funding for these schools, aside from income from public lands. In urban areas, such as those in San Francisco, voters imposed their own local taxes to fund schools. In rural areas, the few schools that existed were paid for directly by the parents of children who attended them. Three years after California had become a state, fewer than 20 percent of its white school-aged children were enrolled in school. The state legislature, ignoring the entreaties of church groups and other reformists, repeatedly failed to establish a state tax to fund its "system of common schools." In his 1859 annual 54 Educator 10 Oct 2013 v2.1 int.indd 54 report to the legislature, Superintendent of Public Instruction Andrew Jackson Moulder introduced a comparison that remains a bone of contention in state politics: California, he pointed out, was spending three times as much to support criminals in prisons as it was to support students in schools. Slightly more than a quarter of the state's school-aged children were attending school, he wrote, raising the prospect of a state with a majority of "benighted men and women ... to control the vote of the State, and, in consequence, to shape its legislation and its destiny." It was not just California's students who suffered neglect – public school teachers belonged to a profession that remained largely ignored by most citizens and their state institutions. Most teachers – if they were trained at all – were inadequately prepared and paid meagerly, about $50 a month. Local school boards, often comprised of well-meaning but poorly qualified decision-makers, imposed O C T O B E R 2013 10/7/13 9:39 PM

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