Iowa Heritage Digital Collections
State Library of Iowa

009_Smith-Hughes Act


009_Smith-Hughes Act


This is a page from the collection "Bicentennial Reflections: History of Des Moines Public Schools, 1876-1976" by Dr. Robert R. Denny, published by the Des Moines Public Schools in Des Moines, Iowa in 1976.

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Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 Another landmark piece of legislation was the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 which provided the first major federal fiscal support for schools. It was a categorical aid measure involving federal supervision over the expenditure of the authorized funds. This vocational education act was aimed at improving education in agricultural and industrial subjects, the trades and home economics in public secondary schools by the original maximum authorization of $7,000,000 a year to be used for training teachers in these subjects, partial payment of their salaries, and research into the needs and provisions for such education. However, in order to participate, the states had to accept the law and submit specific plans for federal approval and matching federal monies. The Smith-Hughes Act was further reinforced by the George-Deen Law in 1936 which was replaced by the George-Barten Law in 1946. This broadened the program by involving more aspects of home economics and family living and strengthened the program through teacher education. The vocational education act of 1963 and the vocational education act of 1968 further stimulated education in the area of home economics. A third categorical aid program was launched in 1958 and was known as the National Defense Education Act. It contained an equalization formula and allocated funds to private as well as public schools. As the name would imply, the act was based on the concern for national security as it related to American scientific and technical competence. Under Title III of the act, $70,000,000 was authorized for the purchase of equipment and remodeling of facilities for instruction in science, mathematics and foreign languages in schools. The NDEA was modified and expanded by subsequent legislation. Part of this change taking place was the addition of history, civics, geography, economics, English, and reading to the categories in Title III. Three major educational revolutions have occurred in the last 100 years: 1. In the 1830s Horrace Mann's idea that a grammar school education was a right for every child. 2. In 1874 the Kalamazoo decision which authorized public funds for high schools. 3. The GI Bill of Rights of 1944. This launched a third revolution by opening higher education to millions of Americans. In 1971 it has been estimated that over eleven million persons had availed themselves of the benefits offered by this and succeeding bills. Many historians have rated the Servicemen's Readjustment Act of 1944 as one of the most enlightened pieces of legislation ever enacted by the Congress of the United States. It made college a reality for millions who had never seen the inside of an institution of higher learning. It not only broadened their educational attainments but also raised the sights for these men and the families that they had. It set another higher rung on the educational ladder as an achievement that was within the grasp and possibility for millions more of Americans. Even judged by strictly financial terms, investment in the GI Bill programs was an outstanding success. In general the higher a person's educational level, the higher his income will tend to be. This was a fact amply demonstrated by the experience of millions of veterans who had been assisted under the provisions of the GI Bill. President Lyndon Johnson stated that the added taxes on the higher incomes thus made possible amounted in the year 1966 to an estimated $60 billion. Since the cost of the two programs came to approximately $19 billion, they had at that point already paid for themselves three times over. Louisa Mae Alcott School (Photograph) East 12th and Lyon Army Post School no.1 (Photograph) Ft. Des Moines Army Post Clara Barton School (Photograph) 56th and Park Avenue Benton School (Photograph)