State legislatures in the United States had long assumed legal responsibility for maintaining public schools, doing so by empowering local districts and giving them great freedom to manage their own schools. Beginning at the turn of the nineteenth century, however, and especially after World War I, state legislatures and growing state departments of education took a stronger role in governing public schools. They expanded state and county supervision of schools, increased state fiscal support, introduced new statutory requirements and minimum standards, and implemented new mechanisms for standardizing schools and coordinating them into systems. This book argues that school reform was a national social policy and a central component of national state-building designed to address the tensions of democracy and capitalism in modernizing America. It analyzes school administration and governance reforms in cities, the countryside, and at the state level; examines the dynamics of state-building in the federalist system; and considers how the public power at the center of education reform transformed schools into governing institutions that extended the reach and power of the state.
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