'The father of public education' had strong views on using public funds for private schools

Horace Mann

Horace Mann

In The Boston Globe on Oct. 8, 2015, Governor Baker is quoted as saying: “This is Massachusetts. ... We’re like the home and the founder of public education. We should be able to make sure that every kid in Massachusetts gets the kind of education that they deserve.

Horace Mann worried that if rich, educated parents ‘turn away from the Common Schools’ in favor of ‘the private school or the [chartered] academy,’ poorer children would receive an inferior education.

Here is a look at some of the history behind this issue:

Horace Mann, the 19th-century legislator and educator sometimes referred to as “the father of public education,” had strong views on whether public funds should be used just for schools overseen by local elected officials (called Common Schools) or also for privately run schools (called “chartered” academies). He came down on the side of public funds for public schools.

As Professor Johann N. Neem writes in an article titled “Why We Consider Public Schools Public & Charter Schools Private,” published on the HistPhil website: “By the 1830s, education reformers like Horace Mann sought to build public school systems. At the time, there were two kinds of schools, charter academies and district schools overseen by locally elected trustees. Although states patronized both kinds of institutions, Mann and others favored expanding tax support for and enrollment in the district schools. They had two reasons for doing so. The first was their commitment to equality. Mann worried that if rich, educated parents ‘turn away from the Common Schools’ in favor of ‘the private school or the [chartered] academy,’ poorer children would receive an inferior education. As Massachusetts Governor Samuel Adams had put it, citizens ‘will never willingly and cheerfully support two systems of schools.’”