The History of education in Missouri deals with schooling over two centuries, from the settlements In the early 19th century to the present. It covers students, teachers, schools, and educational policies.
The small historically French settlements that became part of the United States in 1803 had limited schooling. Schools were established in several Missouri towns; by 1821, they existed in the towns of St. Louis, St. Charles, Ste. Genevieve, Florissant, Cape Girardeau, Franklin, Potosi, Jackson, and Herculaneum, and in rural areas in both Cooper and Howard counties. They were proprietary schools run by itinerant teachers who catered to boys of families who could pay small stipends, and usually provide room and board for the teacher. A few coeducational schools existed in some rural areas by the 1830s. Eleven schools for girls also operated during the territorial period, but these focused on basic literacy and homemaking practices.
When Louis William Valentine Dubourg became the Catholic bishop of St Louis in 1818 he began numerous projects. A Catholic academy, St. Louis Academy (later Saint Louis University), was established in 1818 as the first college west of the Mississippi River.
Before the Civil War, Missouri followed the southern pattern that downplayed public schooling, as well-to-do families patronized local private academies. Ambitious but poor parents pooled their resources to hire part-time teachers for their children. During Reconstruction in the 1860s, the Radical Republicans in power strongly favored modernization through the rapid growth in public schools. Their 1865 Constitution, and numerous state laws, called for a large network of public schools, including ones for black children. The plan was to require four months terms of schooling every year for children. Under the aggressive leadership of state superintendent of schools Thomas A. Parker, the number of public schools jumped from 48,000 in 1867 to 75,000 in 1870, as enrollment grew from 169,000 to 280,000. The 1870 totals included 9100 black students. About 59 percent of the eligible white children attended school annually in 1870, along with 21 percent of the eligible black children. Parker built up organizations of teachers at the county level, as well as the state level, holding numerous clinics to provide the pedagogical education the teachers lacked. New normal schools, to train teachers, were opened at Kirksville and Warrensburg in 1870. A new state university was founded in Columbia, with land-grant federal aid. However it had to share some of that aid with the new school of mines at Rolla. The public school system across the state was heavily oriented toward providing the three Rs of elementary education. High schools were rare outside the major cities. Families that could afford to have children attend school rather than hold a paying job patronized 45 academies in 1870, most of which were attached to the 37 small private colleges. Most were run by religious denominations. St. Louis, under the leadership of William Torrey Harris as superintendent of schools 1868–1880, developed one of the nation's outstanding public school system, complete with the first public kindergartens. Once the conservatives returned to power in 1872, however, public schooling became again a low priority matter in rural Missouri.
Education for slaves was practically nonexistent in Missouri, the small free black population in St. Louis provided small-scale schooling. During the war, the 62nd Colored Infantry regiment of the U.S. Army, largely recruited in Missouri, set up educational program for its soldiers. At the end of the war it raised $6300 To set up a black school, to be headed by a white abolitionist officer, Richard Foster (1826 – 1901). Foster opened Lincoln Institute in Jefferson City in 1866. Lincoln had a black student body, both black and white teachers, and outside support from religious groups. The state government was supportive and provided $5000 a year to train teachers for the new black school system.
In the early 1950s, legal challenges led to the admission of black students to the University of Missouri, which had heretofore been a white-only institution. From 1950 to 1954, four attempts were made by black families to enroll their students in white schools in Kansas City, St. Louis County, and St. Louis City. In Kansas City, 150 black students attempted to enroll at a white school; despite their schools not offering gymnasiums or auditoriums, their attempt was rejected.
After the United States Supreme Court declared school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Missouri Attorney General announced that Missouri's school segregation laws were void. Despite this, several Missouri districts refused to comply with the ruling; schools in Charleston avoided integration until the mid-1960s, along with several other Bootheel districts. In many cases, black students were assigned to schools more than 30 miles from their homes, beyond white schools, and many libraries and parks remained off limits to black students. Many black teachers were laid off after integration. In Moberly, eleven black teachers were laid off in 1955, and more than 125 teachers lost their jobs in mid-Missouri.
By 1970 the Kansas City school district had experienced massive white and middle-class black flight that left it with a smaller tax base and a severe money shortage. The district increasingly depended on federal funding and could not afford to turn down large federal grants that required it to integrate faster. Ultimately, the desegregation that was accomplished in Kansas City was far too little and came far too late, after the district had lost most of its white students to the suburbs, says historian Peter Moran.
In the 1970s, a lawsuit challenged segregation in St Louis city and suburban schools led to a 1983 settlement agreement in which St. Louis County school districts agreed to accept black students from the city on a voluntary basis. State funds were used to transport students to provide an integrated education. The agreement also called for white students from the county to voluntarily attend city magnet schools, in an effort to desegregate the City's remaining schools. Despite opposition from state and local political leaders, the plan significantly desegregated St. Louis schools; in 1980, 82 percent of black students in the city attended all-black schools, while in 1995, only 41 percent did so. During the late 1990s, the St. Louis voluntary transfer program was the largest such program in the United States, with more than 14,000 enrolled students. The program is shrinking every year and will end after the 2030–2031 school year.
- Duane G. Meyer, The Heritage of Missouri (3 ed. 1982) pp 138-42.
- Founded in 1818, SLU was the first university west of the Mississippi River Archived 2013-02-17 at the Wayback Machine date=February 20, 2013.
- John W. Hunt and Linda C. Morice. "Caught in the crossfire: factors influencing the closing of Missouri's black schools, 1865-1905." American Educational History Journal 35.1/2 (2008): 233.
- David Clifford Nichols, Founding the Future: A History of Truman State University (2007).
- Parrish, Missouri: The Heart of the Nation (1980) pp 202-5
- Lawrence O. Christensen et al. eds. (1999). Dictionary of Missouri Biography. U of Missouri Press. p. 312.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Lorenzo J. Greene, et al. Missouri's Black Heritage (1980) pp 167-69
- Greene, et al. Missouri's Black Heritage (1980) pp 174
- Peter Moran, "Too little, too late: The illusive goal of school desegregation in Kansas City, Missouri, and the role of the federal government." The Teachers College Record 107.9 (2005): pp 1933-1955.
- William Freivogel, "St. Louis: Desegregation and School Choice in the Land of Dred Scott" (Century Foundation Press, September 17, 2002 online pp 209-35
- Justin D. Smith, "Hostile Takeover: The State of Missouri, the St. Louis School District, and the Struggle for Quality Education in the Inner-City: Board of Education of the City of St. Louis V. Missouri State Board of Education" Missouri Law Review 74#4 (2009) online
- Christensen, Lawrence O. et al. eds. Dictionary of Missouri Biography (University of Missouri press, 1999); 700 short biographies by experts; 848pp.
- Eurich, Alvin C. Looking Ahead To Better Education In Missouri, A Report On Organization, Structure, And Financing Of Schools And Junior Colleges. (Academy for Educational Development: 1966). online, 119pp
- Houck, Louis. History of Missouri, Vol. 1.: From the Earliest Explorations and Settlements until the Admission of the State into the Union (3 vol 1908) online v 1; online v2; online v 3
- Kirkendall, Richard S. (2004). A History of Missouri: 1919 to 1953. V. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0826204945.
- Kremer, Gary R. Race and Meaning: The African American Experience in Missouri (University of Missouri Press, 2014). xiv, 269 pp. online
- Larsen, Lawrence H. (2004). A History of Missouri: 1953 to 2003. VI. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0826215467.
- Meyer, Duane G. (1982). The Heritage of Missouri (3 ed.). Springfield, Missouri: Emden Press. short textbook
- Parrish, William E. (1973). A History of Missouri: 1860 to 1875. III. Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. ISBN 0826201482.
- Parrish, William Earl; Jones, Charles T.; Christensen, Lawrence O. (2004). Missouri, the Heart of the Nation (3 ed.). H. Davidson. ISBN 9780882958873.; university textbook
- Phillips, Claude Anderson. A history of education in Missouri (1911) online