Public Education and Texas Reconstruction
CARL H. MONEYHON*
IN 1871 THE REPUBLICAN ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR EDMUND J.
Davis initiated a public school system in Texas. The new program in-
cluded many progressive components, such as a common curriculum
for all schools, grading of classes into different levels, systematic teacher
certification, teacher conventions, and central administration. The state
also attempted to provide the funds necessary for such a system. The
idea appeared to be a good one. Contemporary politicians, no matter
what party they belonged to, had always supported the idea of some
sort of state school system. The public seems to have desired some kind
of system as well. By 1874, however, the basic features of the Republi-
can school system created in 1871 had been altered. Schools remained,
but limped along with inadequate funding and poor attendance. Then,
in 1876, the system was replaced completely with the passage of a new
school law that supplanted a state system with localized schools.
Explanations of why Texans abandoned their first working public
school system have always been closely tied to the events of Reconstruc-
tion. In his overview of Texas education, Frederick Eby attributed the
failure of the Texas schools to high taxes, compulsory attendance, the
size and character of the teaching corps, the education of Negroes, ex-
travagance, and the autocratic power of the superintendent, though he
also concluded that the real cause of opposition may have been Texans'
"absolute repugnance" to being taxed for public education.' William C.
Nunn, in Texas under the Carpetbaggers, repeated Eby's basic list of fac-
tors, but concluded that the schools failed ultimately because "cen-
tralization, especially the arbitrary powers of the superintendent and
* Carl H Moneyhon is professor of history at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He is
the author of Republicanism in Reconstructon Texas (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980) and
articles on post-Civil War politics in Texas and Arkansas.
'Frederick Eby, The Development of Educaton in Texas (New York: Macmillan Co., 1925), 163
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 92, July 1988 - April, 1989. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101212/. Accessed May 6, 2015.