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ILLINOIS SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL


January/February 2013

Centennial celebration …
Today’s Association began with 1913 Quincy meeting
by Linda Dawson

Linda Dawson is IASB director/ editorial services and editor of The Illinois School Board Journal.

Part I — 1913-1932

This is the first in a year-long series that will detail the history of the Illinois Association of School Boards from its inception in 1913 through its 100th anniversary on December 13, 2013.

It was a presidential inaugural year. It had its tragedies — floods, wars and mine explosions — that caused loss of life. And it was filled with firsts … the first drive-up gas station, the first income tax deductions, the first Billboard Top 10, the first published crossword puzzle, the first woman to parachute from an airplane and the first stainless steel products.

It was 1913, a year that also saw the first convention and the creation of an organization known as the Illinois State School Board Association.

A November 18, 1913, archived article from The Quincy Whig (the forerunner of today’s Quincy Herald-Whig) announced that 122 invitations had been sent to school boards in Illinois to call for a three-day meeting to be held at the Hotel Newcomb in Quincy on December 11-13.

This may seem like a small number of school districts to invite, but local school boards had not been in existence for all that long. School boards were originally provided for by a new state constitution in 1870. And travel to a meeting in 1913 would have been a much longer and challenging process than today.

The program touted that many prominent educators would attend, including Francis G. Blair, state superintendent of public instruction, who was to give the Thursday evening banquet address.

An historical summary, published by the Association on its 80th anniversary, noted that 25 school board members met and elected Joseph W. Wall, a board member from Quincy, as the first Association president.

Other school board members who attended the meeting, according to The Quincy Whig, were: Robert J. Christie Jr., Quincy school board president; H.H. Cleveland, Rockford; Anna Rynearson, Peoria board secretary; Hettie L. Thompson, Galesburg; and J.T. Montgomery, Charleston

Superintendents mentioned included C.H. Maxwell of Moline and Hugh S. Magill Jr. of Springfield.

Interestingly, the topics for discussion read very much like board members might expect at any current Joint Annual Conference in Chicago.

• School board problems and how best to solve them

• Standardizing school accounting, school statistics and office methods

• School boards and vocational education

• Wider use of school plants — legal uses of school buildings

• Prerogatives of the superintendent

•   ‑Teacher salaries — teaching efficiency

While there were a number of luncheons and banquets, it also is interesting to note that near the end of the convention on Saturday, Otto A. Ward, the Quincy district’s supervisor of physical culture, led the group in exercise.

Proposed purpose
As is true today, IASB began with a stated purpose in mind. Today’s mission, “excellence in local school governance and support of public education,” is reflected in the early purpose of the Association from 1913. The organization was created to:

• Be a purely voluntary movement;

• Serve only the best interests of the public school system of Illinois;

• Secure a uniformity of action on matters pertaining to school financing and management;

• Improve the methods of accounting for school funds; and

• Bring about the simplification of school laws and a more definite differential of functions between the school board and the school superintendent.

Membership in the Association is still voluntary. Currently, 99 percent of Illinois’ 863 districts are members of IASB.

“From inception, IASB has been a member driven organization,” said Roger Eddy, IASB’s current executive director. “Although there have obviously been changes in public education and certainly the role of public education over the past 100 years, the fact that the Association is a member-driven organization is the same today as it was 100 years ago.

“And, the fact that 99 percent of school districts in Illinois are members of IASB speaks volumes as to the strength of that member-driven commitment.”

Early days
Because the Association had no regular staff until 1928, there are few records available for those first 15 years. And during the first four years of the Association’s existence, the country and the world were focused on World War I in Europe. Those involved in education in Illinois were focused on the establishment of a state pension fund for teachers (1915).

By 1920, there were 1.2 million students enrolled in Illinois public schools and 38,000 teachers. That year, the state appropriated $6 million for K-12 public education. Illinois ranked 23rd in the country with 27.5 percent of state and local funds supporting education, and 38th in the amount of per student tax support ($1.47).

In 1927, the legislature created a state aid formula designed to equalize expenditures per pupil. This, for the first time, allowed greater state aid to poorer districts, with each district receiving $9 per pupil and up to $25 per student extra for districts with low evaluations, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

The Association’s first permanent office was established in the Urbana Public Library building in 1928. A.D. McLarty became the first staff member and was named part-time executive secretary, but it would be another 15 years before the Association hired its first full-time executive director.

The first school board convention was held November 21-22, 1928, in Urbana. Subsequent conferences were held in Peoria, Decatur, Springfield, St. Louis and Chicago.

Subsequent issues of The Illinois School Board Journal in 2013 will look at the development and growth of the organization, culminating in November/December with a look toward the future.

References
Historical events for Year 1913, http://www.historyorb.com/events/date/1913

Illinois Association of School Boards, Historical Summary, 1993

Illinois State Board of Education, http://www.isbe.net/news/2004/Illinois_education_timeline.pdf

News and Events of 1913, http://infoplease.com/year/1913.html

The Quincy Whig, November 18, 1913

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