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Why One-Room Schools Disappeared


Why one-room schools died in Livingston County.........

Chapter VI

Consolidation of School Districts

"E Pluribus Unum"--One from Many

Too few pupils--too few teachers--too little money. These were the ingredients which brought about the reorganization and consolidation of school districts in Livingston County in the 1940's and 50's.

A feature of our educational system for more than a century, the one-room school, did not become extinct over-night. And after its demise there were many people who were steadfast in their opinion that the one-room school had advantages which overshadowed the improvements offered by the larger schools. 
Until the enactment of a state law in relation to the survey and reorganization of school districts on June 20, 1945, there had been little change in the rural elementary school district organization in Illinois since 1860.

But the factors which finally brought about a change had been build-ing up for a century. Basically, communities in making normal progress in other phases of life, had outgrown their school systems.

(1) Enrollments in rural schools in Livingston County had been steadily decreasing and by 1945 had reached unreasonably low levels. For a period of several years, two schools with a total of four pupils each, all from the same families, were in operation in the county. One school had only two students, brothers, and employed a teacher with an Emergency Certificate, in order to keep the school open for them rather than to close it and send the two boys to a neighboring school. In 1949 two boys graduating from the eighth grade in Graymont had had the same teacher for eight years.

In 1947 rural school enrollment in Livingston County was one-fourth of what it was 50 years before. Fifty years before it was 6,088; 25 years before it was 3,400; and in 1945-46, it was 1,728.

These changes were the inevitable outgrowth of the mechanization of agriculture and the reduced number of persons required to farm the land.

(2) The teacher shortage was becoming serious. It became more pressing each year and during World War II it became acute. Many teachers were tempted by higher salaried jobs in business and industry. The low pay scale did not encourage students to enter the teaching field, In 1942, 1943, and 1944, sixteen scholarships were offered by the state each year for students interested in teaching but only two (2) of the scholarships were accepted each year. 
July 1, 1943, a law had been passed in which the legislature had sought to improve the quality of education in Illinois but it further complicated the teacher problem. Instead of requiring two years of college: 1 training for a teacher's certificate, it required four years of college training.

Emergency teachers had been employed because of the great shortage of qualified ones. The number had declined in 1947-48, in large part due to the large number of voluntary consolidations. Nevertheless, in 1944-45 there were 35 emergency teachers in Livingston County; in 1945-46, 68 (61 rural) emergency teachers; but in 1947-48 only 31.

(3) Limited resources made financial support of small schools difficult. The assessed valuation of the highest valued district was $326,000 in 1945 and at the legal rate would have produced $3,260 in the education fund. The lowest assessed valuation for a district was $70,370 and would provide only $703.70, at the same tax rate, and yet each was supposed to provide equal educational opportunities for the boys and girls in the district.

The people of the county had recognized the problems and attempted to solve them by closing some of the schools and paying tuition to send pupils to a neighboring school. In 1935-36 there were 232 schools open and only 12 closed; in 1945-46, there were 162 open and 70 closed; and in 1946-47, there were 125 open and 109 closed.

Schools which failed to operate or to meet recognition standards for a period of two years were closed, the district dissolved, and the territory attached to a neighboring district. In her annual report to the Board of Supervisors in September, 1949, County Superintendent Goodrich reported that five elementary schools in the county had not been recognized because they had fewer than seven (7) pupils in average daily attendance and that the requirement for average daily attendance had been raised to ten (10) for the coming year, thus placing a number of others in danger of loss of recognition.

Transportation had been a barrier to consolidation but, by 1945, there was a great increase in the number of farms served by hard-surfaced roads. 
The Illinois Agricultural Association, The Illinois Education Association, The Illinois Congress of Parents and Teachers, and The Illinois Association of School Boards took the leadership in bringing the problem to the attention of the public and in sponsoring the passage of the County School Survey Act.

From Lucille Goodrich book.


Using statistics from Lucille's book, I made a chart which shows the dramatic drop in the number of Livingston County rural students:






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