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Illinois State Board of Education - RG 106 | Illinois State Archives

Name: Illinois State Board of Education - RG 106

Historical Note:

In 1854 the General Assembly created the elected Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to oversee state educational activities. One of the chief tasks assigned to the Superintendent was to collect yearly statistical reports, compiled by county school commissioners, and to use this information in writing annual reports to the Governor (L. 1854, p. 13). Prior to 1854 the Secretary of State had prepared these annual reports and advised county school commissioners in his capacity as Superintendent of common schools.

The enacting legislation also stipulated that the Superintendent could add or delete data required in the reports of county school officials whose titles officially became county school superintendents in 1865 (L. 1865, p. 12). Beginning in 1855 the Superintendent of Public Instruction included summaries of the county statistics in his annual reports and also began answering inquiries from school officers or from citizens requesting information about the meaning or application of school laws. The Superintendent's ruling constituted a legal interpretation of the law unless reversed by the courts. He thus acted as a regulatory agency and his correspondence comprises a body of legal opinions on school legislation (L. 1855, p. 51). In 1861 he received the power to grant state teaching certificates for life (L. 1861, p. 188). A later provision granted county superintendents the option of issuing six-month, one-year, or two-year certificates to first-, second-, or third-grade teachers and instructed the Superintendent of Public Instruction to keep records of state certificates granted to teachers or supervisors (L. 1865, p. 112).

Throughout the next century school legislation clarified and defined his duties while adding further administrative tasks. The State Charities Act of 1875 directed him to visit charitable institutions in order to oversee their educational programs. He also was assigned supervisory power for educational programs at institutions serving deaf or crippled children (L. 1897, p. 289; L. 1903, p. 314). In 1915 the Superintendent began to ensure the physical safety, sanitation, and comfort of school buildings and to direct county superintendents to condemn structures that did not meet specified standards (L. 1915, p. 635). The General Assembly established the Illinois State Board of Education in 1938. Its purpose was to provide equalization grants to school districts. Composed of the Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Auditor of Public Accounts, Attorney General, and Director of Finance, the board was administered generally by the Superintendent of Public Instruction. He prepared grant application forms, received them, determined the amounts to be allocated to the respective counties, and certified and forwarded payment vouchers to the Auditor of Public Accounts (L. 1938, 1st Spec. Sess., pp. 70-71). In 1943 the General Assembly directed the Superintendent to supervise facilities for the educable mentally handicapped, to prepare and make available physical education courses, to keep accounts of school lunch programs, and to require a physical examination of all pupils before they entered first grade and every fourth year thereafter (L. 1943, vol. I, pp. 1239-1262, 1276).

The 1970 Constitution created a new Illinois State Board of Education with members selected on a regional basis and with authority to appoint a chief state education officer (Ill. Constitution [1970], Art. X, Sec. 2). As provided for in the new constitution a new Illinois State Board of Education was legislated to come into existence on January 1, 1974. It is composed of seventeen members appointed by the Governor and equitably distributed across the state's five judicial districts. It is charged with formulating statewide educational policies, distributing assistance funding, and appointing a State Superintendent of Education who serves as the board's chief administrator (P.A. 78-361, pp. 1149-1151). The term of the last elected Superintendent of Public Instruction ended on January 13, 1975 at which time the new position of State Superintendent of Education was initiated.

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