Ohio School Law

From Ohio History Central

Ohio's current school system is based upon the Ohio School Law.

During the 1830s and 1840s, Ohioans were taking a significant interest in the idea of public education. The Ohio School Law of 1849 reflected that interest. Schools commonly functioned independently from one another at this time, with little attempt at uniformity. The state legislature chose to model the state system after one created by the citizens of Akron in 1847.

The roots of today's school system could be found in the Akron School Law. There was to be one school district encompassing the entire city. Within that district would be a number of elementary schools, with students divided into separate "grades" based on achievement. When enough demand existed, the school board would establish a high school as well. Property taxes would pay for the new school system. A school board, elected by the community, would make decisions about the system's management and hire the necessary professionals to run each school. Illustrating the racism that existed in Ohio during this era, the Ohio School Law excluded African-American children from the public school system. The Ohio School Law of 1849 emulated the Akron law.

The Ohio legislature passed a modified Ohio School Law in 1853, which simplified the 1849 law. As a result of the new law, the state collected a uniform property tax across the state, which it then redistributed to each school district based upon the number of students enrolled. The School Law of 1853 also provided money for school libraries for the first time in Ohio's history.

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