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The History of our Public Schools
Wyandotte County, Kansas

1844
2012

 

 

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Published by the State Department of Public Instruction
120 East Tenth, Topeka, Kansas 66612
Copyright June, 1967

We are sincerely grateful to the Kansas State Department of Education for giving us permission to transcribe and provide online the history found in this publication.

Return to Index for Kansas Educational Progress, 1858-1967, by A. F. Throckmorton

The State Department of Public Instruction
1945-1967
Part III - Division of Administrative Services

The Division of Administrative Services, which is organized in six sections, has carried an especially heavy load since 1965 because of federally financed programs recently placed in the Department for administration.  Duties of the division are briefly described by sections.

Lawrence Simpson, who joined the State Department of Public Instruction in 1957 as a consultant in the Elementary and Secondary Accreditation Section, became director of that section two years later.  In addition to his other duties, Mr. Simpson served in the Department as coordinator of Federal programs pending appropriation of funds by Congress with which to employ a coordinator. He also is in charge of the program for upgrading the Department of Public Instruction under provision of Title V of the Elementary Education and S Act of 1965.  He has written several numbers of Kansas Schools, the Department's official publication, and several important bulletins and brochures.  He was appointed director of the Division of Administrative Services in 1963.

School Finance Section

Fay Kampschroeder, who has held a key position in the Department of Public Instruction since 1949, is the director of this section.  In fact, most of the activities for which this section is responsible have been initiated under her leadership.  The administration of state funds for the general support of schools was handled by this section until 1965, when the addition of a number of new programs made it necessary to transfer this responsibility to the statistical services section.  The school finance section serves as a clearing house for other sections and divisions of the Department, and for local school officials who need information pertaining to financial and statistical records in the Department.  Another time-consuming activity of the finance section director has been the coordination of Department of Education procedures with the state Department of Administration and other state agencies.

Preparation of the Department budget and supervision of accounting procedures for the numerous programs administered by the superintendent and his staff add to the duties assigned this section.  Because accounting procedures required by federal agencies differ from state accounting practices the record keeping work of the section is almost doubled.  This problem is discussed in Chapter IV.

School Facilities Services

School facilities services, initiated by the Department in 1951, were the outgrowth of school building, school equipment, and transportation needs arising in school districts with enrollment impacts caused by federal activities, and the need to make an inventory of school facilities throughout the state as part of a nation-wide study authorized by Congress in 1950.  The study was designed to be the basis for alleviating school building shortages created by shifting population, increasing birth rates, obsolete school buildings and a backlog of needs developed during World War II.  The Legislature did not authorize the Department to use federal funds in conducting the survey until 1953, but in the meantime the Department, with the assistance of the state's 105 county superintendents, collected the necessary data.  In processing applications of local school districts for building funds under provisions of Public Law 815, there arose a demand from many other districts that the Department provide consultative services in the school building field.

School Lunch Programs

A school lunch director was first appointed by the State Superintendent in 1946.  The director exercises general supervision over school lunch activities, trains supervisors and cooks in the schools, conducts field visits and computes the federal reimbursement rate to school districts on a per meal basis.  In Kansas the lunch program was very unpopular in the early days of its operation on the grounds that it was a socialistic venture and contrary to the American way.  Today, the school lunch in most districts is considered to be a fundamental in the school's operation.  This is also true of the special milk program established by Congressional action in 1954.  The school lunch section cooperates with the Department of Social Welfare which handles the distribution of surplus commodities.

Statistical Services and School Finance

The State Superintendent's office has always had the task of collecting statistical data and incorporating in his annual and biennial reports tabulation of much of the information collected.  With the addition of new activities and growth of the state's system of schools, the need for improved statistical services has accelerated.  Until recently the use of electrical data processing equipment has been limited to teacher certification procedures and related activities.  Increasing use of such equipment became necessary in making studies to find a better formula under which to distribute state funds to schools.  The equipment provided to be invaluable in making application of a proposed new formula as the basis for legislation leading to a school foundation finance law.  Administration of this law is currently the principal duty of the statistical services section.  Some background leading up to enactment of the foundation finance act is appropriate at this point.

Prior to 1937 more than 95% of financial support for Kansas elementary and secondary schools came from local district ad valorem taxes.  [Annotation:  ad valorem tax - a tax levied on the difference between a commodity's price before taxes and its cost of production.]  Since that year financing the schools has gradually changed from a local district responsibility to a joint endeavor shared by the federal government, the state, the county, and the local district.  The first state aid for schools, other than an insignificant amount from the permanent school fund, was appropriated by the Legislature in 1937 but changing conditions and a rigid formula for distributing the money caused the $2,113,000 distributed in 1937-38 to decline until by 1947 only 54% of the appropriation for this purpose reached the schools.  The 1937 law was repealed in 1949.

From 1937 until 1965, when the first school foundation finance law was enacted, patchwork attempts to provide adequate financing of schools included a hodgepodge of at least a dozen funds from county and state sources to supplement school district revenues. Additional support was derived from federal sources including school lunch and milk funds, Public Laws 815 and 874, the National Defense Education Act and, in 1965, Public Law 89-10.

No great amount of imagination is required to envision the complexities involved in administering such a multitude of funds from so many sources.  Inequities in the property tax, inadequate support from the state level, and insufficient revenues from all these sources stimulated the State Department of Public Instruction, with encouragement from legislative leaders, to conduct studies and develop a formula that would provide substantially more state support from non-ad valorem sources, consolidate many of the funds already available, correct educational and tax inequities, and set up incentives for improving instruction in the schools.

To this end, Dr. Carl B. Althaus, a specialist in the field of school finance and a member of the Department staff was asked to assume this task.  Dr. Althaus, who had developed the basic formulas in most finance legislation since 1947, accepted the challenge and began work on the project in 1963 with publication of his studies following in 1963 and 1964.

The 1965 legislative session in which these proposals were introduced made only minor revisions in the formula submitted.  Its most significant features were retained to become the school foundation finance law enacted that year.  As a basis for distributing state funds the formula takes into consideration the preparation and experience of teachers, density of population as a factor in the reimbursement of school districts for pupil transportation costs, county-wide tax levies from ad valorem sources, substantial amounts of state money, pupil-teacher ratios, and an economic index to determine financial ability of each county to support its schools.  One controversial feature of the law is a new method of limiting school district expenditures.  Instead of mill levy limits heretofore used for that purpose, this act limits districts to spending only 104% of per pupil expenditures the preceding year.

The following tabulation, prepared by Fay Kampschroeder, director of the school finance section, compares the origin of school operational revenues in three years beginning with 1955-56. Whereas the state provided only 23.693% of school operational costs in 1960-61, under the foundation school finance act of 1965, the state's contribution rose to 35.273% in 1965-66.

Origin of School Revenue for Operational Purposes during 1965-66, 1960-61, and 1955-56
Source
Amount $
Percent %
Amount $
Percent %
Amount $
Percent %
Local
92,360,582
35.588
95,586,312
53.533
60,387,962
50.452
County
52,072,453
20.064
34,404,444
19.269
23,666,183
19.772
State
91,542,748
35.273
42,304,329
23.693
32,000,524
26.736
Federal
23,551,863
9.075
6,258,850
3.505
3,638,350
3.040
Total
259,527,646
100.00
178,553,935
100.00
119,693,019
100.

Civil Defense Adult Education

The civil defense adult education program, which is federally financed, prepares public school teachers to give instruction in disaster preparedness to adults and upper class high school students.  Members of this section cooperate with civil defense authorities in a radiological monitoring program.  Staff members promote the organization of classes in cooperation with public school officials.  These classes are taught by teachers prepared in the training program, who are paid a nominal fee for these services.

School District Unification

State Superintendent Peter MacVicar, who served from 1867 to 1871, doubtless made the understatement of his illustrious career when he said, "More difficulties probably arise from organization and changes of school district boundaries than from all other sources."  To Superintendent MacVicar's observation might be added the fact that no social change is made with more agonizing resistance than accompanies school district reorganization, and is then accepted with so much universal satisfaction a year or two after its consummation.

The 9,284 school districts had been created in Kansas by 1896 did meet the needs of a pioneer society in which academic achievement was secondary to wresting a living from the soil.  The schools supported by these districts also served as community centers with ciphering matches, box suppers, spelling bees, community sings, and other social activities.  Under these conditions there developed a sentimental attachment to the one-room school that persisted long after the educational and economic welfare of the state demanded a new organizational framework within which schools might operate.  As recently as 1950, rural education was thought of in terms of one-room schools although by that date no semblance remained of the uniform system of school districts prescribed by the Constitution.  In fact, by 1960 there had been created no less than eighteen different kinds of districts as to organization or function, which called for an ever-increasing number of special laws to enable such a variety of organizations to function.

The system of common school districts that county superintendents began organizing in 1858 did not long remain uniform as provided in the Constitution.  Weakness of the school district structure became evident as early as 1895, in which year there were 390 districts that did not maintain school.  In 1876, the Legislature authorized the organization of school districts by cities of the first and second class.  These districts were governed by boards of education who did share authority with an annual meeting, were highly autonomous, and operated outside the jurisdiction of county superintendents.  Other developments served to outmode the original school district system.

[Annotation:  The office of County Superintendent was abolished in 1968.]

[AnnotationFirst Class. - Topeka, with a school population, in 1882, of 5,561, and an enrollment of 3,917, employed 47 teachers; Leavenworth, with a school population of 6,641, and an enrollment of 3,317, had 39 teachers; Atchison, with a school population of 4,550, and an enrollment of 2,310, had 28 teachers.

Cities of the Second Class. - In 1882, Lawrence employed 25 teachers; Emporia and Wyandotte, each 20; Wichita, 17; Ottawa, 16; Independence and Salina, each 13; Winfield, 12, Junction City, 10; Beloit and Manhattan, each 8, Clay Center, 7; Chetopa, 5.

Cities of the Third Class. - The return for 1882 shows Beloit to have 9 teachers; Garnett, 8; Holton 7; Augusta, Burlingame, Great Bend, Humboldt, Sabetha and Seneca, each 6; Cherryvale, Clyde, Ellsworth, Girard and Valley Falls, each 5; Blue Rapids, Brookville, Carbondale, LeRoy, Neosho Falls, Peabody, Pleasanton, Russell and Sterling, each 4.]

Thousands of the small common school districts did not have sufficient enrollment or financial resources to maintain high schools when the demand for them became evident at the turn of the century.  In 1900, 11,508 students were enrolled in Kansas public high schools, but the number more than doubled during the following decade.  As high school enrollments grew, several kinds of high school districts were formed, rather than follow the obviously practical course of realigning existing districts so there would be sufficient population and financial support in each with which to maintain twelve grades of school.

The high school districts thus formed operated under their own governing boards, separate and apart from those providing only eight grades of instruction, and usually included within their boundaries all or parts of several common school districts.  This movement developed into a double deck or two-story system of districts with non-coterminous boundaries, which presented problems that defied solution until the unification laws of 1963 and 1965 established new educational patterns. This type of district organization evolved because of a fierce kind of loyalty to the "home district," the reluctance of patrons to relinquish direct control of their elementary schools, and, in some instances, opposition to higher taxes.  One Department member observed during the district unification activities that many taxpayers fought to maintain the school district status quo as though their small inefficient districts had been let down from heaven in a basket.

The first districts created to provide secondary education only were authorized in 1886 as county high school districts. Under this legislation, any county with 6,000 or more inhabitants could establish such a district. By 1890 an increasing number of common school districts began broadening their instructional programs to include high school courses. When this occurred in county high school districts, the residents of such common school districts were faced with double taxation.  Not only were they taxed to finance the county high school, but they also supported their local high schools without any outside financial assistance.  Because patrons of county high school districts resisted losing tax resources, it was not until 1923 that this issue was fully resolved.  Under the corrective legislation, the county high schools became community high schools supported by all territory in the county that was not included in another district that maintained a high school.

[Annotation:  "Barnes High School Law".  Authored by J. S. Barnes.  "Under this measure all high schools are supported by a general county levy and tuition therein is free to pupils of school age residing anywhere in the county."]

A law that provided for the establishment of township high schools was enacted in 1911 but was repealed in 1915 before many such districts had been organized.  Repeal of this law was the logical result of a 1915 law that provided for the establishment of rural high school districts.  Under this act any area, upon petition of 40% of its electors, could call an election for the purpose of voting on a proposition to establish a rural high school.  When formed, these districts were governed, as were common school districts, by annual meetings and school boards.  In the original legislation, high schools organized under provisions of this law were limited to providing instruction for grades nine through twelve.  However, other kinds of rural high school districts were authorized by legislative action before the unification acts of 1963 and 1965 eliminated most of them.

[Annotation:  See information on the formation of Washington Rural High School District .pdf, early 1930's.  Information taken from newspaper accounts at that time.]

[Annotation:  "Rosedale, Bonner Springs, Edwardsville and Chelsea High Schools are operating under the Barnes County High School law and are free to all children in the county."  Transcribed from History of Wyandotte County Kansas and its people ed. and comp. by Perl W. Morgan. Chicago, The Lewis publishing company, 1911. 2 v. front., illus., plates, ports., fold. map. 28 cm.]

In the course of one hundred years, the system of common schools that had been created by county superintendents became an unwieldy conglomeration of districts governed under scores of general and special laws.  Good schools developed in spite of inefficient organization rather than because of it.

The Legislature, in its first moves to provide better districts, approached the problem as though it were a hand grenade from which the pin had been pulled.  The action with respect to partially depopulated districts illustrates this kind of cautious approach.  Under a 1901 law, partially depopulated districts could be disorganized by county superintendents provided less than seven children between the ages of five and twenty-one resided in that district.  However, the county superintendent could not act until a petition signed by 2/3 of residents of the district had been filed requesting such disorganization.  In order to further protect the district, the county superintendent's action was not final until it had been approved by the board of county commissioners.  Section eleven of this same act authorized the county superintendent to convene a school for resident children when two or more adjoining districts each had less than five between the ages of five and twenty-one years.  If the school was held the expense was to be divided among participating districts.

The first major attempt to correct some of the inadequacies of the school district was made by the Legislature in 1945 by the enactment of legislation that required all elementary districts to be organized.  All public officials in any way connected with the movement had a rough time of it until the act was declared to be unconstitutional in 1947, on the grounds that the Legislature did not have authority to delegate legislative powers to the county committees that were in charge of the program.  Among those subject to harassment were legislators, county committees, county superintendents, and the state superintendent.

While a 1947 amendment to the reorganization law was under consideration by the Legislature, a delegation of about a thousand rural citizens, including wives and many children, descended upon the Legislature.  By way of protest, the group, which appeared before the State Education Committee, called for the abolition of country committees and a return to democracy, charging that they were being forced into town school systems, and that farm children would have to travel long distances and be unable to help with farm chores.

One elderly man testified, "Why in the name of God, common sense and democracy would any one want to tear up our system which has brought bleeding Kansas schools from the next to lowest to the next to highest of any state in the Union?  He did not mention the scale used in arriving at such an evaluation.

The bitterness aroused by reorganization activities reached a climax when two senators received letters threatening them with death unless they lent their support to changes in the reorganization law.  State Superintendent L. W. Brooks reported that he received similar threats.  In spite of the uproar much was accomplished under the 1945 legislation as the Legislature validated all redistricting similar threats.  In spite of the uproar much was accomplished under the 1945 legislation as the Legislature validated all redistricting completed before the Supreme Court declared the reorganization acts to be unconstitutional.  By March 1, 1947, more than 45% of the 8112 elementary districts in existence on March 1, 1945, had been affected in some way by the reorganization movement, with 3700 of them having been disorganized or had boundaries changed.  Approximately 4300 districts remained unchanged.

If the school district system was bad in 1945 it was terrible by 1961 as population continued to move from rural to urban areas, school finance laws became more discriminatory against school in urban areas, and special legislation further complicated financial and organizational problems.  Disregard for the state's educational welfare and the lack of local responsibility are reflected in common practices of the period.  It was an exceptional year in which one or several schools did not operate with a teacher and only one pupil.  At one time four boards of one-room school districts were paying salaries to teachers who had no pupils; in one instance a board employed two teachers to instruct three pupils, all from the same family; the boards of some closed schools paid exorbitant sums to their members to transport pupils to other districts; and the law permitted hundreds of schools to operate only eight months a year.  As recently as 1960 as many as 255 of the state's 552 public high schools operated with enrollments of less than 75 students each, with 18 of this group maintaining school with less than 25 students.

In an attempt to bring order from chaos, the 1961 Legislature enacted another district reorganization law for the purpose of creating unified districts, but opponents of any kind of defensible realignment of districts exerted so much pressure that the bill as introduced was emasculated and, in a test case, declared by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional on the same grounds that invalidated the 1945 legislation.  No district reorganization was completed under this act.

By 1963 most legislators were determined to enact a sound reorganization law that would be constitutional.  The Attorney-General and other attorneys worked closely with legislators to insure that the bill as enacted would stand the test that was certain to come.  The role assigned the state superintendent under the 1963 act was a complete reversal of the jurisdiction given him under the 1945 and 1961 legislation.  In order to insure constitutionality every significant procedure in the reorganization process required either the state superintendent's decision or approval, including action taken by the county planning boards and, in some instances, the results of elections.

The 1963 law provided for incorporation all territory of the state in school districts that offered instruction from grades on through twelve with authority to operate kindergarten and, under certain conditions, junior colleges.  Unification procedures progressed under the time schedule provided in the law, but problems and inequities that could not be foreseen in 1963 were adjusted by amendatory legislation in 1965.

Administration of the 1963 unification act brought down upon the head of the state superintendent a storm of vilification and abuse for which there is no recorded parallel.  So much authority had been delegated to him that leaders of organizations struggling to maintain the school district status quo, citizens with sentimental attachment to schools that had outlived their effectiveness, and outraged taxpayers who would be required to pay their fair share of taxes under the new type of district organization, leveled their campaign against the superintendent as though he had enacted the legislation by dictatorial edict.

Administration of the unification law was assigned to a section in the Department created for that purpose.  Members of the section traveled extensively over the state consulting with county planning boards, holding hearings, and participating in hundreds of discussions and conferences.  They prepared forms for the use of officials connected with unification activities, published instructional bulletins and brochures, and in other ways contributed to the success of the program.

In addition to administering the law, the Department was required to assume many duties heretofore dealt with by the state's one hundred five county superintendents.  These duties include certifying the boundaries of school districts to county clerks and advising them of all boundary changes; preparing up-to-date maps of all school districts; conducting hearings on appeals of local boards of education, who fail to reach agreement on proposals for transfer of territory from one unified district to another; and advising local school officials on legal matters pertaining to the administration of the unified districts.  One member of the unification section also serves as a transportation consultant to boards of education that have found it necessary to expand their transportation services because of enlarged districts.

Numerous lawsuits were filed against the state superintendent in an attempt to obtain rulings from the Supreme Court that would invalidate the statutes under which unification activities were authorized.  Because this fate had befallen the 1945 and 1961 acts there was widespread belief that the 1963 and 1965 legislation would also be thrown out.  However, decisions in all of the numerous court cases attacking unification upheld the law.

Return to Index for Kansas Educational Progress, 1858-1967, by A. F. Throckmorton

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