Free Public Schools Revisited

After posting the first article about free public schools, something about it bothered me but I could not explain it. It came to me about 5:30 this morning and had created a conflict that I cannot reconcile with the information available now.

Gus Floyd taught school for about twenty years at Ashpole Institute, Baltimore School, Red Cross Academy, Ashpole Academy and perhaps other area schools. Copies of his teacher examination scores are available here: 1884, 1888, 1890, 1891, 1892. These scores are signed by the Robeson County Superintendent of Public Instruction, N. B. Blake in 1884 and J. A. McAllister in the other years.

Without going into great detail, the North Carolina Constitution, written in 1868, mandated a free public education for all children between the ages of six and twenty-one, established the State Board of Education and the State Superintendent of Public Instruction. It did not, however, provide for a specific funding mechanism for schools. It gave municipalities the power to levy a special school tax for local funding which many towns and cities implemented.

The only indication I have found of the existence of free public education here is the county superintendent of public instruction signing teacher examination reports. I assume that the state funded this position. There are no contemporaneous reports of public schools in Ashpole prior to 1900. My conclusion is that areas such as ours "fell through the cracks" in the system. Many private academies such as Ashpole Institute here and Stinceon Institute in Orrum sprang up to fill the void and were operational until the NC General Assembly provided a general funding for schools in the state.


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