Truancy and Non-Attendance in the Chicago Schools

Appendix 4: Early Laws of the State of Illinois Relating to the Establishment of Free Schools, Compulsory Education, and Child Labor

Edith Abbott and Sophonisba P. Breckinridge

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Extracts from: (1) An Act Providing for the Establishment of Free Schools, 1825; (2) An Act to Provide for the Application of the Interest of the Fund Arising from the Sale of the School Lands Belonging to the Several Townships in This State, 1833; (3) An Act Relating to Schools in Township Thirty-nine North, Range Fourteen East, 1835; (4) An Act to Establish and Maintain a System of Free Schools, 1855; (5) An Act to Secure to All Children the Benefits of an Elementary Education, 1883.

(1) Extracts from "An Act Providing for the Establishment of Free Schools" (in force January 15, 1825)

To enjoy our rights and liberties, we must understand them; their security and protection ought to be the first object of a free people; and it is a well established fact that no nation has ever continued long in the enjoyment of civil and political freedom, which was not both virtuous and enlightened; and believing that the advancement of literature always has been, and ever will be the means of developing more fully the rights of man, that the mind of every citizen in a republic is the common property of society, and constitutes the basis of its strength and happiness; it is therefore considered the peculiar duty of a free government, like ours, to encourage and extend the improvement and cultivation of the intellectual energies of the whole: Therefore,

1. Be it enacted by the people of the state of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, That there shall be established a common school or schools in each of the counties of this state, which shall be open and free to every class of white citizens, between the ages of five and twenty-one years: Provided, That persons over the age of

(432) twenty-one years, may be admitted into such schools, on such terms as the trustees of the school district may prescribe....

2. Be it further enacted, That the county commissioners' courts, shall, from time to time, form school districts in their respective counties, whenever a petition may be presented for that purpose by a majority of the qualified voters, resident within such contemplated district . . . . .

4. Be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the trustees to superintend the schools within their respective districts . . . . . to make an annual report to the county commissioners' court of the proper county, of the number of children living within the bounds of such district, between the ages of five and twenty-one years, and what number of them are actually sent to school, with a certificate of the time a school is actually kept up in the district, with the probable expense of the same . . . . .

22. Be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the inhabitants of any district, at their regular or called meetings, to make such regulations for building or repairing school houses as they may think necessary, and for furnishing the school house with fire-wood and furniture; they shall have power to class themselves, and agree upon the number of days each person or class shall work in making such improvements, and all other regulations that they may think necessary to accomplish such building or improvement: Provided, however, That no person shall be required to do any work, or pay for such improvements or wood, unless they have the care of a child between the age of five and twenty-one years, or unless he shall attend the school for the purpose of obtaining instruction; and for any neglect or refusal to do such work, by any one of the inhabitants, according to this act, there shall be a fine for each day they shall so neglect or refuse to work of seventy-five cents.

24. Be it further enacted, That whenever the tax is levied, according to the twelfth section of this act, in good merchantable produce, it shall be lawful for the trustees to make out a list, with a warrant, stating amounts to be collected in produce; and they shall have power to transfer the list and warrant to any teacher or teachers that they may have employed, who shall have full power to collect the same; and if any person shall refuse or neglect to pay their respective

(433) amounts, in produce, for two weeks after demanded, it shall be lawful to collect the same in cash: Provided, That whenever there is any disagreement about the price of any produce offered in payment, it shall be the duty of each to select one disinterested house-keeper, to value the same, and if they cannot agree it shall be their duty to choose a third, and all such valuation shall be binding.

Approved, January 15, 1825.

(2) Extracts from "An Act to Provide for the Application of the Interest of the Fund Arising from the Sale of the School Lands Belonging to the Several Townships in This State" (in force May 1, 1833)

3. On the first Saturday in May next, or if the school shall commence after that time, then at some time within one month after the commencement of the school, a meeting of the employers of the teachers shall be held, of which meeting the teachers shall give three days previous notice, to each of his employers, who are not absent from the neighborhood, at which meeting such employers shall proceed to appoint three persons as trustees of said schools; said trustees shall be authorized, and it shall be their duty to visit the school from time to time, and to require the admission into the school, and the gratuitous tuition of such children residing in the vicinity of the school as shall be presented to said trustees for that purpose, if such trustees shall believe that the parents or guardians of such children are unable to pay for their tuition. It shall also be the duty of said trustees to receive and apply to the use of the school, any donations of money, books, maps, globes, stationery, or other articles necessary or useful for schools . . . . .

4. The teacher shall make a schedule of the names of all scholars attending his school, who reside within the township to which the school fund belongs, from the interest of which he wishes to obtain a part of his compensation,, and on every day day on which a -school shall be kept by him, he shall set down under the proper date, and opposite the name of each scholar, the attendance or absence of such scholar. Immediately after the close of the month of October, or sooner, if his school shall have come to a close, said teacher shall add together the 

(433) number of days which each scholar residing in the proper township shall have attended his school, and set down the total number of days opposite the name of such scholar; he shall then add together their several amounts, and set down the total number at the bottom of the schedule; and this total number, after the schedule shall have been examined, and if necessary corrected by the school commissioner, shall be the criterion by which he shall be governed in making the apportionment aforesaid; but no such schedule shall be taken into consideration unless it shall be accompanied by a certificate from a majority of the trustees of the school, or from five of the employers of said teacher, setting forth that they verily believe said schedule to be correct, and that said teacher has, to the best of their knowledge and belief, given gratuitous instruction in said school, to all such orphans and children of indigent parents residing in the vicinity, as have been presented for that purpose by the trustees of said school. If any school shall contain scholars residing in two or more different townships, each possessing a productive school fund derived from their school lands, the teacher of the school in order to become entitled to a share of the interest of each of said township school funds, shall make separate schedules of the names of his scholars residing in each of said townships, and make return thereof to the school commissioner of the county in which such township, or the larger part thereof, shall be situated. In making the apportionment authorized by the foregoing part of this act, no services of any teacher shall be taken into consideration, except such as shall have been rendered between the last day of April and the first day of November of the present year.

5. On the second Monday of November, in the year one thousand eight-hundred and thirty-four, or within one week thereafter, and at the same time in each succeeding year, each school commissioner shall proceed to apportion the interest derived from each township school fund in his county, among the several teachers entitled to the same. in all cases where such interest is not required to pay the expenses incident to the survey and sale of the school lands, and the management of the fund, such apportionment of interest shall be made among the several teachers entitled to it, according to the number of their scholars residing in the township possessed of such school fund, and the number of days each of said scholars shall have been

(435) instructed by such teacher, within the twelve months immediately preceding the month in which such apportionment is hereby required to be made, to be ascertained in the mode pointed out in the fourth section of this act . . . . .

(3) Extracts from "An Act Relating to Schools in Township Thirty-nine North, Range Fourteen East" (in the City of Chicago) (in force February 6, 1835)

1. Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, That the legal voters in township thirty-nine north, range fourteen east, in Cook County, shall assemble at the usual place of holding elections in the said township, on the first Monday in June next, and annually thereafter, and elect either five or seven persons to be school inspectors, who shall continue in office one year and until others are elected . . . . .

3. The said school inspectors, or some of them, shall visit all of the public schools within the township, at least once a month; inquire into the progress of the scholars and the government of the schools; examine all persons offering themselves as candidates for teaching, and when found well qualified, give them certificates thereof gratuitously, and attend at the quarterly examinations of the scholars. They may advise and direct as to the books to be used, and the course of study to be pursued in the schools; may remove teachers for any just cause; make by-laws for the regulations of the schools: Provided, That a majority of the voters, at any legal meeting of the township called for the purpose, may repeal such bylaws; may divide the schools into male and female departments, if they think it expedient; and if a majority of the legal voters of the township shall require it, they may establish one or more high schools, under such regulations as a majority of such legal voters may prescribe; and they may do such other things in relation to schools, not inconsistent with this act, as a majority of the legal voter., of the township may direct.

4. The legal voters in each school district, shall annually elect three persons to be trustees of common schools, whose duty it shall be to employ qualified and suitable teachers; to see that the schools are free, and that all the white children in the district have an oppor-

(436) -tunity of attending them, under such regulations as the inspectors may make; to take charge of the school houses, and all of the school property belonging to the district, and to manage the whole financial concerns thereof. The said trustees shall annually levy and collect a tax sufficient to defray the necessary expense of fuel, rent of school room, and furniture for the same -and they shall levy and collect such additional taxes as a majority of the legal voters of the district, at a meeting called for that purpose, shall direct: Provided, That such additional taxes shall never exceed one-half of one per cent. per annum upon all the taxable property in the district; all of which taxes the said trustees shall have full power to assess and collect....

6. The trustees of each district shall, at the end of every quarter, make report to the school inspectors in writing, which report shall set forth the number of schools within the district; the time that each has been taught during the previous quarter, and whether by male or female teachers; the number of scholars, and the time of their attendance during the quarter, to be ascertained by the teachers' keeping an exact list or roll of the scholars' names; the number present every school-time or half day, which roll or list shall be sworn to or affirmed by the teacher, and shall accompany the trustees' report....

8. The school inspectors shall quarterly apportion the said school moneys among the several districts in the said township according to the number of scholars in school therein, between the ages of five and twenty-one years; and also, according to the time that each scholar has actually attended such school during the previous quarter, to be ascertained by the report of the said trustees and teachers.

9. Whenever the-said apportionment shall have been made, the school inspectors shall make out a schedule thereof, setting forth the amount due to each district, the person or persons entitled to receive the same, and shall deliver the said schedule together with the reports of the trustees, and the lists or the rolls of the teachers, to the commissioner of school lands, and thereupon the said commissioner shall pay over such parts of the interest of the school moneys belonging to the said township, as the said inspectors, in said schedule, may direct. It shall be the duty of the commissioner of school lands, in Cook County, to preserve all of the schedules, reports and teachers'

(437) rolls, that may be delivered to him as aforesaid, and to make a record thereof in a book to be kept by him for that purpose, and he shall annually make and transmit to the Auditor of the State, a report, which shall set forth the various items contained in the trustees' reports and teachers' rolls, and such other information concerning the schools in the said township, as he may have in his possession, together with a particular account of all of the school moneys by him paid out, and such other matters as he may see fit to add.

10. It shall be the duty of the inspectors, semi-annually, to make a report, setting forth the state and condition of the schools in the said township, and cause the same to be published in one or more of the newspapers printed in the township: Provided, nothing in this act shall be so construed as to authorize the school commissioner of Cook County to pay to said trustees any part of the principal belonging to said township.

This act to be in force from and after its passage.

Approved, February 6, 1835.

(4) Extracts from "An Act to Establish and Maintain a System of Free Schools (in force February 15, 1855)

45. A majority of said directors shall constitute a quorum to do business . . . . . They shall establish a sufficient number of common schools for the education of every individual person over the age of five and under twenty-one years, in their respective districts; and shall make the necessary provision for continuing such schools in operation for at least six months in each year, and longer if practicable . . . . .

67. The common school fund of this state shall consist of such sum as will be produced by the annual levy and assessment of two mills upon each dollar's valuation of all the taxable property in the state, and there is hereby levied and assessed annually, in addition to the revenue for state purposes, the said two mills upon each dollar's valuation of all the taxable Property in the state, to be collected and paid into the state treasury as other revenue is collected and paid; and the amount due from the state, according to a statement and settlement of the account between the state and that fund, under the provisions of an act entitled an "Act to provide for the distribution and application of the interest on the school, college and

(438) seminary fund," approved on the seventh of February 1835, and of all funds which have been or may be received by the state from the United States, for the use and support of common schools, and also of the money added to the common school fund which was received from the United States under an act of congress providing for a distribution of the surplus revenue of the United States . . . . .
70. At each meeting in October, or at any subsequent meeting thereafter, before the first of May, annually, each township board of trustees in this state shall determine, by estimate, as nearly as practicable, the entire amount of money necessary to be expended in the township to keep in good condition and operation a sufficient number of free schools for the accommodation of all the children in said township during the ensuing year, over and above the available means arising from the township fund, or from other sources, and applicable to general school purposes, and also such additional amount as the board may think necessary for the exclusive purpose of supplying any deficiency in the fund for the payment of teachers, and for the purpose of extending the terms of schools after the state or common school fund shall have been exhausted; and shall determine, as nearly as practicable, what rate per cent. on the one hundred dollars' valuation of all the taxable property in the township, each of said amounts separately, will require to be levied.

(5) Extracts from " An Act to Secure to All Children the Benefit of an Elementary Education" (in force July 1, 1883)

[The first compulsory education law in Illinois.]

1. Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly: That every person having the control and charge of any child or children, between the ages of eight and fourteen years, shall send such child or children to a public or private school for a period of not less than twelve weeks in each school year, unless such child or children are excused from attending school by the board of education, or school directors of the city, town, or school district in which such child or children reside. Such excuse may be given by said board of education or school directors for any good cause shown why said child or children shall not be required to attend school in conformity with this act.


2. It shall be a good defense to any suit brought under this act, if the person under whose control such child or children are, can show that the mental or bodily condition of such child or children is such as to prevent its attendance at school or application to study for the period required by this act, or, that such child or children have been taught in a private school, or at home for the time specified in this act, in such branches as are ordinarily taught in primary or other schools, or have acquired the branches of learning ordinarily taught in public schools, or that no public school has been taught within two miles, by the nearest traveled road, of the residence of such child or children, within the school district in which said child or children reside, for twelve weeks during the year.

3. If any person having the control and charge of any child or children shall fail or neglect to comply with the provisions of this act, said person shall pay a fine of not less than five nor more than twenty dollars. Suit for the recovery of the fine and costs shall be brought by any director, or member of any board of education, of the district in which such person resided at the time of the committal of the offense, before any justice of the peace of said township. jurisdiction is hereby conferred on all justices of the peace in this State for enforcing this act. Such fine shall be paid, when collected, to the school treasurer of said township, to be accounted for by him as other school money raised for school purposes.

4. It is hereby made the duty of school directors and members of the boards of education to prosecute offenses occurring under this act. The neglect so to prosecute by any school director, or member of any board of education, within twenty days after written notice has been served on such director, or member of such board of education, by any tax payer residing in such district, that any person has violated this act, shall subject him or them to a fine of ten dollars, to be sued for by any tax payer residing in the school district where the violation of this act occurred, before any justice of the peace in the township where the --,aid school district may be located; and when such fine is collected it shall be reported by said treasurer, and accounted for as other money raised for school purposes, and become a part of the school fund of said township.

Approved, June 23, 1883.


No notes

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