150 Years in Education - PART II

Development of the State Department of Education 1900-1970

Growth of Responsibilities of the Chief State School Officer

From the time of the appointment of the first state superintendent of common schools in 1854 to about 1913, the State Department of Education was predominantly a one-man operation.  The State Superintendent kept what records are available, visited schools, held an annual conference for local superintendents of schools, and served as a secretary of the Normal School Board of Trustees.

In 1899, the superintendent was assigned the responsibility for the education of children residing in the Unorganized Territory, an area comprising nearly one-half of the state, with numerous townships sparsely settled and with no local government. 22   This remained his personal responsibility until 1911 when a director for these schools was employed.  In making provision for complete state support and control of schooling in the Unorganized Territory, Maine took a step which still stands as a model for other states.  Not only has it guaranteed educational opportunities to children in sparsely settled areas, but it has done this by providing an education which is the equivalent or superior to that provided in organized towns and plantations, and at a cost which is exceedingly low compared with similar services under somewhat similar conditions in other states.

A review of the statutes reveals a gradual growth in the responsibilities assigned to the state superintendent or commissioner of education from 1900 to 1949 when the State Board of Education was reinstituted.  Many of the policy-making duties of the Commissioner were transferred to the Board as he became its executive officer as well as its professional leader and consultant.

The scope of legislation extending the chief state school officer’s duties and responsibilities ranged from the professional to the ridiculous, with items of the highest educational implications mingled with items of perhaps lesser but practical importance such as the one to authorize the commissioner to devise and furnish plans for privies.

With the advent of the State Board of Education, which was formally organized in 1949, more legislation was directed to the Board although the Commissioner, as executive officer and professional advisor, has been involved in all extensions of Board and Department activities.

Among the most important enactments was one authorizing the acceptance of federal funds for educational purposes, which was adopted in 1961.  The measure was  presented by the Department of Education as a routine matter to remove any obstacles to acceptance of Federal funds for new purposes, but ran into unexpected difficulties when it became evident that some of the leadership were still opposed to acceptance of federal dollars for education.  The matter resolved, the act was passed making it possible for the state agency to accept millions of dollars which were soon appropriated to the state by the Congress.  Thus, the last evidence of opposition to acceptance of Federal aid to education was overcome and Federal participation became an accepted policy.

Dr. Payson Smith and Dr. Warren G. Hill discuss their experiences as chief state school officers in Maine at the 50th annual conference of superintendents of schools. Dr. Smith called the first conference in 1909

Another important landmark was in teacher education with the authorization to approve fifth year master of arts programs at the states colleges.  Gorham and Farmington State Colleges which had been accredited by the New England Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools and by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education developed programs leading to the degree of master of arts in education.

Vocational education was given added impetus in 1965 when the legislature authorized the Board to approve area secondary vocational centers and to allocate state and federal funds for the construction and operation of these centers.  A state plan providing for 16 area vocational centers was devised under the leadership of John A. Snell, director of the Bureau of Vocational Education, and the wheels were set in motion to accomplish the dream Commissioner Payson Smith had envisioned many years before.

In effect, since the inception of the Board in 1949, it has been delegated overall responsibility for all phases of public elementary and secondary education, teacher education, post-secondary vocational and technical institutes, adult education, vocational rehabilitation and for education of the youth residing in the Unorganized Territory and on the Indian reservations.

Integration of pupils which has been a serious problem in many states was not an issue until 1965 when the education of Indian children living on the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy reservations was transferred from the Department of Health and Welfare to Education.  Such a transfer had been discussed for years, but due to a division of thinking on the part of the Indians, no action had resulted.  The Department readily accepted the responsibility for these children numbering approximately 300 and began to make plans for improving their lot through better buildings, fewer grades per teacher and provision for school lunch including a breakfast program which, in its first year of operation, materially lowered tardiness and absence.  As the schools on the reservations were segregated schools, in that they were attended by tribal children only, the question of integration was immediately raised.  After many conferences and a visitation by federal officials, the matter was amicably resolved by an agreement whereby Indian children were allowed to attend nearby schools on a voluntary basis. 


The strengthening image of the Department of Education and its services may be attributed in large measure to the caliber of men holding the position of commissioner and the relatively long tenure enjoyed.  As contrasted with the high turnover in previous years, only six men occupied the office during the 50 years from 1900 to 1950, and the average term of service was over seven years.

Chief State School Officers -- 1854 - 1966


William W. Stetson spanned the turn of the century, serving as state superintendent from 1895 to 1907.  His formal introduction to the profession came when he was appointed as     the teacher of a district school at the age of fifteen.  For some years he taught the winter term, and worked on his father’s farm when not engaged in teaching.  Using some accumulated savings, he followed the example of many other Maine boys and went west in search of greater opportunity.  With a minimum of education, but evidence of great ability, he became superintendent of schools in Rockford, Illinois.  Returning to Maine, he served with conspicuous success for ten years as superintendent of schools in Auburn and in 1895 was appointed as state superintendent of public schools.  Among his accomplishments during his term of office were the establishment of the town system of school administration and abolition of the district system, institution of free conveyance for elementary pupils, adoption of the free textbook system, extension of free tuition privileges to all pupils, improvement of courses of instruction in the teacher-training institutions, and adoption of an optional plan of professional supervision.  His annual reports from 1895 to 1907 are noted for his knowledge and grasp of educational operation in the state and are filled with constructive suggestion. 24

W. W. Stetson, State Superintendent 1895-1907

In 1905, he was selected president of the Department of Superintendence of the National Education Association.  He might well be called the Horatio Alger in education of his day, as he proved that a poor farm boy, through his own initiative and effort, could progress from a one-room district school to positions of state and national leadership.

An indication of how close Superintendent Stetson was to the pupils and teachers of the state is found in a report of a visit he made to the schools in northern Aroostook County wherein he noted some things with which he was not pleased and some which gave him satisfaction.  He wrote, “I noticed in certain schools that the pupils were idle and listless.  You must realize that one of the great advantages which children derive from attending school comes from learning to work to dig things out for themselves.  Do not allow children to run to you on every foolish pretext.  It was noticed in many schools the children had what is known as a sing-song tone, and closed their sentences with a rising inflection.  Do not allow children to snap their fingers to attract your attention.  Do not place upon the walls of your schoolroom advertisements of tobacco or other pictures representing objects with which children should not become familiar.  Be sure of your facts and that which you state is true.” 25   The printing of these comments in his annual report undoubtedly had a wholesome effect on all of the schools of the state.

As a good teacher should, he did conduct a follow-up inspection accompanied by the Governor.  He noted good results from his suggestions in that “Pupils read fluently in French and English; pupils are clean, bright, wholesome looking; dressed neatly and becomingly; manners courteous and easy; prompt and accurate recitations; methods employed by the teacher are such as would be used by our best teachers in cities.”  He also noted “a marked improvement in calling and dismissing classes.  In many schools when the signal is given, the children rise in their places, face in the direction they are to march, keep step as they pass to their places, face the teacher and visitor and bow simultaneously.” 26  State administration has changed considerably since 1900 but, without doubt, many of his successors would like to follow his example.

From 1907 to 1917, the incumbency of Dr. Payson Smith, much constructive legislation was enacted.

Dr. Smith was particularly interested in lengthening the school year and was able to increase the minimum from 20 to 30 weeks.

He was an ardent champion of adequate salaries for teachers, and showed his understanding of human nature by admitting that a solution was not to be reached by legislation but through public opinion.  He believed that while certain requirements can be enforced by law, the real spirit of educational progress is not to be obtained by statute, but is to be found only in the people.

Promotion of industrial or vocational education was one of his many endeavors.  He saw that too great emphasis was placed on college preparations as 90% of the product of Maine’s public schools went into agriculture or the trades.  He was a pioneer in the advocacy of vocational schools, which did not materialize until legislation was enacted in 1965.

He was successful in having manual training and home economics introduced in the normal schools.

Summer schools were encouraged and a beginning was made in 1909 when five were held.  A report from St. Agatha in northern Maine indicates the value of the summer programs because “many have never heard English spoken outside of the schools, for French still remains the language of the home in much of Northeastern Maine.” 27

Dr. Smith was a champion of good education for the rural sections, believing that the country boys and girls deserved the best teaching, and that the course of study for rural schools should not be an imitation of that used in city schools.  He recommended state certification of teachers instead of optional state examination on the grounds that the state must fail to guarantee a reasonable equality of educational opportunities unless it safeguards entrance to the teaching profession.

During this period a great effort was made to provide professional supervision of schools.  A permissive law allowing towns to join together in unions for the purpose of jointly employing a superintendent of schools had been passed by 1897 and a number of voluntary unions had been formed.  During Dr. Smith’s term of service emphasis on union formation was increased and in 1917 he was authorized to join all towns with less than 50 teachers in school unions. 28   This was unprecedented and reflects the confidence the legislators had in Dr. Smith’s judgment.  One reason advanced for the union system was that it promoted good business methods.

Dr. Smith moved on to become commissioner of education in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and later returned to become dean of the College of Education at the University of Maine.  In his college teaching he had a great influence on teachers and administrators and shared his philosophy and experience liberally with those who were fortunate enough to attend his classes.

Dr. Smith’s accomplishments were great and Maine schools progressed in all directions under his leadership.  He is also important for his forward and courageous thinking and his leadership for changes which came about many years later.  In a biography of Smith by Dr. William H. Soule, 29 he is fittingly described as an “educational elder statesman for the country at large.”  Soule also said “Payson Smith meant more to the education of his time than a person who provided the leadership for translating into accomplishment an impressive number of educational goals...he played two important roles in the educational circles in which he moved; he was a conscience for education and he was a balance wheel.”

To summarize, Payson Smith believed in well-trained and well-paid teachers, well built and adequately equipped schoolhouses, professional supervision, a simple and definite course of study, reasonable consolidation for educational advantages, and community interest.


Dr. Augustus O. Thomas served as chief state school officer for 12 years from 1917-1929.

The 1921 annual report of State Superintendent Augusta O. Thomas was prophetic of the growth in the leadership role of the state school officer and Department of Education wherein he wrote “There is generally a strong tendency today to make state departments of education more vital to the progress of education.  The office is more and more becoming a promotion enterprise susceptible of as high art and technical skill as the engineering profession.  It is necessary that the different phases and the department of education be brought together into a purposeful whole.” 30    Noting the need for what he called “educational engineering”, he reported on the start of a statewide survey of school conditions so that he could know if his system was progressing or slipping back from year to year.

The years of Commissioner Bertram E. Packard (1929-1941) were difficult ones and as the effects of the Depression, as noted later, were felt in Maine, he was able to maintain only a holding operation.  A devotee of his state’s history, he was responsible for encouraging its study in the schools and was instrumental in having a study outline prepared for use in the elementary grades.

Dr. B. E. Packard, Commissioner 1929-1941

Dr. Harry V. Gilson, serving from 1941-1947, saw Maine schools through a second world was with their involvement with Victory Corps, Victory gardens, and many other patriotic endeavors.  Under his direction the Department staff expanded to include building and transportation specialists and additional vocational education personnel.

Harland A. Ladd (1947-1952) was a former Maine superintendent of schools.  While the emphasis during his term of office was on instructional programs, much constructive legislation was passed.  The most important was the reestablishment of the State Board of Education with authority to select the commissioner.  Mr. Ladd became the first commissioner appointed by the board.

Other forward steps included authority for the creation of community school districts, the Maine School Building Authority, and the start of Maine’s first post-secondary vocational-technical institute.  State subsidies were increased, and a more equitable method of distribution was adopted, based on state valuation of local units.  Tenure for teachers, which had been a controversial subject for some years, was adopted, and equal pay for women was mandated.  Commissioner Ladd literally gave his life in the cause of Maine education, dying from a heart attack brought on by overwork.

Dr. Herbert G. Espy, Commissioner 1947-1955

Herbert G. Espy (1952-1955) whose terms was relatively short in comparison with that of some of his predecessors, was an intelligent, scholarly person, noted for his academic achievements as a teacher and author of professional books.  He was the first commissioner to hold an earned doctoral degree.  During his incumbency, attention was given to safeguarding the integrity of granting degrees, and largely due to his efforts a statute was enacted.  An increase in the minimum salary for teachers was adopted, and the school year was extended from 32 to 36 weeks.

Warren G. Hill (1956-63) served during the implementation of the Sinclair Bill, a district reorganization act.  A revised state foundation program to equalize opportunity and guarantee a minimum program of education was adopted.  Dr. Hill was recognized outside the state as a leader and impressive speaker, and through his efforts Maine became more and more involved with regional and national educational affairs.  He resigned in 1963 to become president of Trenton State College in New Jersey.  Dr. Hill was succeeded in 1964 by William T. Logan, Jr., superintendent of schools at Burlington, Vermont.

William T. Logan 1964-

William T. Logan (1964) has seen the department expand to include programs and services provided under the Federal Elementary and Secondary School Act of 1965.  There has been increased emphasis on vocational education with the establishment of the fourth and fifth post-secondary vocational technical institutes, and the inauguration of a state-wide plan for technical-vocational area centers at the secondary level.

The men who have served in the position of commissioner of education in the 20th century, without exception, have been men of vision who spared no effort to discharge their responsibilities and extend education to Maine children.  Their reports and public utterance indicate the seriousness with which they undertook their dedication to education.  Personalities have undoubtedly governed the course of events.

The leadership role was not limited to the chief state school officer, but was shared by many able members of the Department of Education who served in perhaps a less conspicuous manner but nevertheless made many worthwhile contributions.  To single out individuals for mention would be most difficult, but Richard J. Libby, who served as agent for rural education and in other capacities during much of this period has been respected and revered by all with whom he came in contact.  He had a twinkle in his eye which young superintendents remember was most effective when he had some admonition or advice to offer.  He became known as “Mr. Department of Education” for his broad knowledge and the service he rendered.

Mr. Libby would spare no time or effort to be of assistance, but was not a man to be imposed upon.  The story is told that on one occasion when he was invited to speak at a local gathering at a certain hour, the meeting was slow in starting and then progressed at a very deliberate rate.  When Mr. Libby was called on, late in the evening, he explained politely, with a twinkle in his eye, that he had been invited to speak at a given time, that he was there, that the time had long passed and that according to the clock his speech was over.  As he had other engagements for the balance of the evening, he said he was leaving.  This unexpected act may have had some later effect on local gatherings and encouraged them to be more prompt and considerate.

Richard D. Libby,  affectionally recognized in the 1920’s and 30’s as “Mr. Department of Education.”

Miss Florence Hale served as a rural agent from 1916 to 1932.  She was a dynamic leader in the improvement of rural schools and attained national prominence by being elected president of the National Education Association.  She resigned as rural agent to become editor of The Grade Teacher.

The positions for these rural agents came about in a somewhat curious way as they were financed by the General Education Board, a forerunner of present-day foundations, which was interested in improving schools in rural areas and donated funds for this purpose to be handled by the commissioner.  Maine was the only New England state to receive such a grant.  The commissioner employed Mr. Libby and Miss Hale and paid them by his personal check from funds advanced by the board.  This procedure continued until 1932, when the grants were discontinued, and Commissioner Packard was able to secure state funds to continue the positions.


A review of the statutes, school bulletins, biennial reports, and public addresses of the chief state school officers and staff members indicates an on-going concern for an adequate supply of well-trained teachers, measures to increase the supply, and interest for teacher welfare.  Concern of the state superintendent for qualified teachers has been evident from the turn of the century to the present.

In 1918 during World War I, Commissioner Augustus O. Thomas warned “This is a ‘making’ time and it would be a mistake to lower standards from which the state could not recover for a decade.  It is better to close some schools than to supply them with poorly-trained teachers.  If schools were places for herding of children, standards might be lowered; but viewed from the standpoint of professional service, standards should be raised.  A teacher shortage will bring this country to a realization of the necessity of an adequate remuneration for trainees of coming men.” 31

In September of the same year commenting on the shortage in high schools, he wrote it would be unwise to lower the minimum qualifications for certification.  Two years of post-high school study was considered to be the minimum allowable.  He did express a hope that matters would gradually adjust themselves because “salaries are uniformly higher and will tend to hold teachers from the allurements of lucrative war work and will gradually bring back some who have gone for that purpose.” 32

His optimism was short-lived for the end of the war did not solve the teacher shortage.  An appeal was made by Dr. Thomas in 1919, for young people to attend normal school or college saying that “attendance and graduation from our normal schools has slumped tremendously since the war.  In three years the graduations have been cut 50 per cent.” 33   The mobility of teachers and short duration of service were pointed out in 1919 when 4,281 teachers of a total of 6,554 were new to the position held.  At that time, 2,014 or 31% were normal graduates.  Dr. Thomas considered that a prepared teacher was necessary for a successful school and was concerned that the average experience was only 3.6 years.  Commenting on the need for more stability, he said, “It would seem reasonable to expect a teacher who receives a normal or college education to teach five years.  This would make it a profession and a life work and give her a chance to settle down in life at the age of 25.” 34

The shortage continued throughout the twenties despite the Commissioner’s constant urging of local units to increase salaries and make teaching an attractive profession.  Some advancements were made and many places were planning to increase salaries when the Great Depression hit and school officials were forced to retrench.

The depression was somewhat slower in affecting Maine than more urban sections of the country, but by 1931 general unemployment had caused many former teachers to seek positions in schools.  The situation is described in the Maine School Bulletin of April 1931: “There is no longer an appreciable shortage of teachers, no superintendent should find it difficult to fill all or nearly all vacancies from the graduating classes of the normal schools.  There is an over supply of teachers of English, Latin, modern language and social studies.  There is a demand slightly in excess of supply in mathematics, science, commercial and vocational subjects.” 35

The effects of the depression worsened and in 1933 many school systems were eliminating special subject offerings which had previously been introduced after much work and effort.  The number of regular elementary and secondary positions was also decreased, and over 4,000 teachers received reductions in salaries ranging from 5% to 20%.  Other retrenchments affected transportation of pupils and purchase of textbooks and supplies, and caused deferment of needed repairs. 36

During these difficult years, Commissioner Bertram E. Packard, a practical man not given to hyperbole, attempted to rally the people of the state to a defense of the schools.  In January 1934, prior to the annual town meetings, he minced no words in saying to the people and Legislature, “When we consider the fact that the amount expended two years ago was at a very low level, no one can for a moment believe but that a decrease in these expenditures in the two-year period of over $2,000,000 must have resulted in serious impairment of facilities for the children in our schools.  It means the schools of our state are being maintained on a starvation diet and if further reductions were to be made it would be preferable to entirely close the public schools.  The time is ripe for organized public sentiment to demand that further attempts at chiseling and paring in school appropriations be abandoned and that substantially increased appropriations be made.” 37

Again in 1936 he said, “The day of the $10 or $12 per week teacher is over and if municipalities expect to employ teachers at those salaries they must expect a more or less inefficient and unsatisfactory type of service.” 38   Commissioner Packard, in numerous writings and speeches, continually called attention during the depression years to the need for courses for all pupils in the fine arts which too many citizens considered “fads and frills.”

Staff of the State Department of Education in 1946.  Seated sixth from the left is Harry V. Gilson, Commissioner from 1941-1947.

Commissioner Harry V. Gilson was equally positive in the role of defender and was an advocate of adequate standards and salaries for teachers.  In 1942, he wrote, “The war with its various and numerous demands upon our teaching personnel, both on the home front and for defense, has created a very serious shortage of teachers.  Standards for certification have been rigidly maintained and must be continued.”  However, he added, “If schools are to open we shall be forced to take a new stand.” 39   A year later he implored teachers to stay on the job as it was a patriotic duty.  In January 1944, he reported that “We have reached the mid-year and still have schools that have not opened.” 40  The situation grew steadily worse and some schools were forced to drop courses because of lack of personnel, and an already heavy pupil load was increased.  During the war years permits and emergency licenses were granted to persons who lacked the established minimum requirements for teaching and the Department was compelled to “sanction” the employment of persons having little or no education beyond the high school level.

Two world wars and a major national depression made it difficult to staff Maine schools with well-qualified teachers and to expand the normal schools and colleges to the point of annually preparing enough teachers to fill vacancies.  During the entire period, Maine had been handicapped by being located at the northeast corner of the nation and being within easy reach of states paying the highest salaries in the nation.  Because of their dedication and efficiency Maine teachers always have been sought in other states and the drain has been heavy and serious.

The need for an adequate supply of teachers and proper compensation for qualified personnel was a major concern during the 20th century and in 1966 shortages still existed in primary grades, English, mathematics, science, and vocational subjects.  Positive efforts, however, have been made to attract young people to the teaching profession.  Appropriations for state colleges increased gradually with resultant doublings of enrollment since 1953 and expansion of both staff and facilities.  The State Board and Department adopted the policy that Maine must train enough teachers to staff her schools.


The development of standards for teachers has progressed from the day when certification by the Department of Education was voluntary and the only requirements for being a teacher were to be a good disciplinarian, excellent in penmanship, quick at figures and a good grammarian, to full certification based on four to five years of professional study.

Teacher examinations leading to state certification were offered in 1895 and became compulsory in 1913.  Superintendents of schools were required to hold a teaching certificate until 1909 when a certificate of superintendence grade was introduced.

Standards were revised and strengthened in 1924 under Dr. Augustus O. Thomas, who stated in a foreword to a manual of information, “A trained teaching staff is essential to good schools.  We do not hope to come at once into the ideal of a trained teacher for every school in the state but it is not too much to expect that by 1930 our teaching staff will be raised to a reasonably satisfactory level.” 41   He expressed the hope that the regulations would be conducive to a full professional training in normal school or college.  This revision provided a system of certifying elementary and secondary teachers through summer school attendance in addition to the examination method which had prevailed up to that time.

No particular changes were made in certification laws or regulations until 1931 when the 85th Legislature authorized the Commissioner to set up, from time to time, such standards as would seem advisable for the best educational interests of the state.  Acting under this statute, the examination plan was abandoned except for the certificate of superintendence grade. Examination for superintendents were given until 1963 when an approved plan of professional study and internship was adopted.  In place of teacher examinations, some actual training in an approved institution was required and elementary teachers could not be certified without evidence of completion of at least one year of post-secondary work.  Four years of college study was required for secondary school teachers.  It was an opportune time to raise standards as there was an over supply of teachers.

In 1949, a summary of regulations was published which up-dated the changes.  The philosophy was that Maine must set justifiably high standards while adjusting minimum requirements to a point where a teacher could not be certified without evidence of completion of at least one year of post-secondary work.  Four years of college study was required for secondary school teachers.  It was an opportune time to raise standards as there was an over supply of teachers.

The general plan was to issue certificates of two grades, standard and professional, but subject matter certification was never prescribed due to the large number of small schools in isolated areas.

Warren G. Hill was Commissioner of Education from 1956 to 1963 and was prominent in the implementation of the School Administrative District law.

The national trend toward greater participation by the teaching profession in the establishment of standards was recognized in 1958 by Commissioner Warren G. Hill.  Through his influence, the State Board of Education appointed the Maine Advisory Committee on Teacher Education and Certification to advise on policies and practices in the preparation and licensure of teachers.  By this act, teachers and lay people, for the first time formally, had a voice in setting the standards for the profession.  The committee recommended that standards be raised and procedures be streamlined.

The minimum requirements proposed by the committee and adopted by the State Board included a bachelor’s degree, appropriate subject matter concentration, professional knowledge, and supervised teaching experience.  In 1963, after continuing study by the Advisory Committee, several changes were made.  The professional or highest grade certificate required 30 hours of approved study beyond the bachelor’s degree.  Renewal of this credential was based on service and growth rather than formal study.  There was a reduction in emphasis on “how to teach” courses for elementary certification.  Secondary teaching majors were increased from 24 to 30 semester hours, and areas of concentration from 40 to 50 hours.  In addition for the first time, a candidate was required to obtain the recommendation of the preparing institution before a certificate would be granted.  The examination method in lieu of course work was approved, but experience to date has shown that it has not been utilized.

In retrospect, it appears that the history of certification in Maine has followed the national pattern to a large extent.  Some of the modern trends adopted include increased participation by the profession itself, involvement of lay and advisory groups, simplification of procedures with a reduction in the number of certificates issued, a gradual increase in the level of preparation required, the use of proficiency examinations, and extension of reciprocity among the northeastern states.  An analysis of Maine practices and policies indicates a high degree of conformity with Dr. James B. Conant’s specific recommendations with the exception of strict subject matter certification and enforcement. 42   The teacher has become a professional in addition to retaining the qualifications of character, strong discipline and “know-how.”

The role of administering certification and up-grading standards has not been an easy one nor without assaults from both within and without the profession.  The Legislature of 1963 had measures presented with would have eliminated any required professional preparation, but referred the matter to an interim research committee.  A report of the committee was presented to the next session but no action resulted and the matter was left to the Commissioner and State Board.


The first pension or retirement law for teachers enacted in 1913 was not based on concern for teachers, but in the words of the act, “to increase the efficiency of the public schools by retiring teachers of long service.” 43   It provided at age 60, a pension of $250 per year for 35 years of service; $200 for 30 years and $150 for 25 years of teaching service.  Improvements have been made from time to time.  But small as the first pensions now appear, the non-contributory type of pension was never equaled.

The Maine Teachers Retirement Association was organized in 1924 and administered by the Commissioner and Department of Education.  Membership was voluntary in the first years of its operation, but so few teachers joined and so many would be without benefits in later years, that membership was made compulsory in 1930.  In 1947, the Teachers Retirement Association was merged with the Maine State Employees Retirement System.

Various benefits have been extended from time to time.  The older non-contributory teacher has not been forgotten in these changes.  In 1963, the pensions for these teachers had risen to $1,465 for those with 35 years, to $1,365 for 30 years and $1,265 for 25 years of service.  At the same time pension coverage was broadened to provide $600 for those with 20 years of service and in 1965 a pension of $480 was granted to those who had taught for at least 15 years.  The 104th Legislature voted a minimum pension for any state employee, including teachers, with ten years of service.

An act of 1965 provided substantial adjustments for teachers and other retired state employees according to the length of time retired and more significantly provided that on all future adjustments in state employees’ salaries the same percentage of increase or decrease would be applied to all retired state employees.  This measure provided a safeguard against the inroads of inflation and made retirement for teachers more secure.

In all of the changes the Commissioner and Department staff have been active promoters and supporters of an equitable retirement system.


The first annual minimum salary for teachers, set by law, was $575.  This was increased in 1943 to $720 and in 1945 a state minimum of $1,000 was required.  The amounts for various levels of training and experience have been revised upward at nearly every session of the legislature in recent years until the minimum for those with a bachelor’s degree starts at $5,000 and goes to $7,500 with ten years of experience.  The range for teachers with a master’s degree is $5,300 to $8,000.

In the early years when teachers were not well organized nor particularly vocal, the commissioner was their spokesman in bringing the need for better salaries to the attention of citizens.  He and his staff consistently advocated increased state appropriations for subsidies and equalization measures so that local units could improve teachers’ salaries.  The words of Commissioner Harry V. Gilson in 1943 are illustrative of these endeavors.  He wrote at the time, “Teachers are being forced out of teaching not because they want a change of vocation but because prices are going up and the dollar is losing its purchasing power.  More generous financial support of schools and teachers is the logical answer.” 44

The 93rd Legislature in 1947 made additional funds available to committees to compensate for a substantially increased minimum salary and Commissioner Harland A. Ladd hailed the action as the dawn of a new day for schoolteachers.  At the same time he cautioned that in spite of the salary increases the teacher was little, if  any, better off financially than he was in the pre-war period. 45


Many other benefits have been achieved by teachers since 1900.  The Department operates a teacher placement service which is used widely by teachers, superintendents, and school officials and has been mutually advantageous.  The success of this service which began in 1917 may be attributed, in large part, to Margaret (Lewia) Arber who has served as placement director continuously since 1923, has come to know nearly every teacher in the state, and is recognized for her remarkable ability to remember a name or face.  That the service is used widely by both administrators and applicants is evident with annual placement figures over 4,000.

In a move to improve supervision and teaching practices in the rural schools in 1919, the state initiated a special summer school for 100 teachers and paid their expenses.  These teachers were the forerunner of a group of experienced teachers who had special training at the normal school to enable them to assist other teachers in the same school system.  The plan followed was for them to teach their own class or school on Saturday and visit another school on one of the regular school days.  This was the beginning of state assistance in improving instruction by visitation.

Sabbatical leave was authorized in 1929 at the rate of one-half the annual salary, but worthy as the idea was there is no indication it was widely utilized.

Tenure or position after a probationary period of three years was a moot subject for discussion at teachers meetings and in legislative hearings for several years.  In 1951 a law providing for a continuing contract was enacted, and equal pay for women teachers with the same training and experience as men was mandated.

In 1959, sick leave of ten days a year cumulative to 30 days was provided and was subsequently extended to 90 days.  Fringe benefits of insurance on life, health, accident, liability, major medical, and tax-sheltered annuities were authorized in 1965.

The Department of Education has supported all of these measures and cooperated closely with the professional associations in bringing them about.


It was 1915 that the Department of Education was granted a voice in what was to be taught in the public schools.  That year the Legislature prescribed that courses of study for all schools be approved by the state superintendent of schools.  In the following year a state course of study was developed and placed in use in all elementary schools.  The state superintendent’s authority to approve courses of study was extended to private schools in 1919 and since that time approval has been required of all private schools receiving public funds for payment of tuition.


An interesting extension of educational opportunity occurred in 1915 when a modicum of school privileges was extended by the state to the children living at the numerous light stations scattered along the coast.  The need for providing some education for these children through a traveling teacher had been considered for some time and was put into active operation during the early part of the summer of 1915.  A teacher who was known as “The Lighthouse Teacher” was employed to make visits to each light station and remain several days at a time.  She gave the pupils regular instruction and upon her departure left an outline of work to be completed before she came again.  During her absence the pupils were supposed to be taught by their parents or some other person living at the station.  On her return visit the work was reviewed.

Many of the light stations on Maine’s extensive and rock-bound coast were outside the usual routes of travel and it was often necessary for the teacher to travel some distance in a small boat.  The usual hardships of this mode of travel were experienced in unfavorable weather and especially during the stormy season of the year.  Nevertheless the Commissioner’s report of 1915 indicates that the teacher was able to follow a reasonably regular schedule of visits.  The stations included Boon Island, Seguin Island, Franklin Island, Matinicus Rock, Egg Rock, Petit Manan, Nash Island, Libby Island, and Avery Rock.  The plan was described as “practicable and bids fair to be a permanent solution to the problem.” 46

It was not a permanent solution, however, for the number of light stations and children living at these stations diminished and in a few years it was discontinued.  The “Lighthouse Teacher” did serve a real need for a period of time and her arrival must have been an important event for the children isolated from the mainland. 


In response to the state superintendent’s urging, legislation was enacted in 1919 requiring the teaching of personal hygiene, sanitation, and physical education.

Other laws affecting the curriculum have been reflections of the time.  There has been continuing emphasis on the teaching of American history and civil government, the Constitution of the United States, the Declaration of Independence and American Freedoms.  Special day observances have grown in number and include Temperance Day, Poetry Day and John F. Kennedy Day.

The annual reports of the commissioners and Department bulletins are replete with suggestions for curricular improvement.  As early as 1917, no doubt due to the passage of the Federal Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act, industrial and vocational education were being advocated.  Vocational guidance was first proposed in 1918 and received some attention, but it was not until 1940 that a state guidance director was added to the staff.  In 1919, distributive education was recommended but it did not become a reality for about 20 years when the city of Bangor initiated a program.

Improved libraries were stressed in 1920 when it was reported that “Maine is rated as having the smallest high school libraries,” but the report hastened to add that “this position is about to undergo a change.” 47   The importance and value of  libraries has been emphasized sine that time until many schools have very respectable collections.  The Secondary School Accreditation Standards of 1955 gave added impetus to library improvement when it made it a consideration for accreditation.

The fine arts were not forgotten even though for years courses were few in number due in part to a shortage of teachers.  The commissioners and Department have accepted the viewpoint of Commissioner Packard who wrote in 1938, when Maine was still suffering from the depression, “It is desirable that courses in the fine arts be made available to our pupils.  There was a time when these subjects were considered as ‘fads and frills’ but that is past and now they are necessary subjects in every well-ordered curriculum.” 48

Educational use of the radio was attempted but like the experience in other states, it did not develop into an on-going program.  Its most effective use was a series of radio talks on current educational issues broadcast by Dr. Harrison C. Lyseth, State Director for Secondary Schools.

Modern Maine School

Educational television has proven to be an effective means of instruction and by 1966 was being widely utilized.  The establishment of the state station at the University of Maine and authority for the Department to contract with WCBB (Colby-Bates-Bowdoin) extended coverage to over 90% of the pupils in the state.  The Department added a specialist in television instruction to the staff and has produced programs in health, Maine history and other subject areas where programs have not been readily available.


State leadership has never been satisfied with Maine’s educational system and has continually promoted extensions and refinements.

A survey on “The Financing of the Public Schools of Maine” in 1934 by Paul Mort was very critical of the inadequacies of the curricular offering. 49   It classified the schools surveyed into three expenditure levels, high, medium, and low.  The author reported that the only attempts to make the curriculum a living thing were on the high expenditure level.  Bangor was cited as an example of a community where the school committee was engaged in revising the curriculum.  In the low level expenditure schools, the scope of the curriculum was limited to mastery of the tool subjects with the teacher portrayed as a taskmaster rather than a teacher.  The secondary schools on the medium and high levels showed evidence of developing programs to fit the needs of pupils.  A student had some choice of courses in high level schools, whereas one program only was offered in the low level schools.

The Mort Survey, undoubtedly, had some beneficial effect, but the times were adverse and progress was slow.  The need for change, however, was not forgotten.

In 1940, it was reported that “Very little work on the whole is being done to broaden and enrich the curriculum for pupils completing their education in high school.  Maine has largely followed the classical tradition.  We still find in far too many of our secondary schools that the curriculum has not been broadened to meet the needs of our youth.” 50

Although the needs were known, the problem involved other factors, such as district reorganization, which had to be solved before substantial broadening of the curricula offering could be accomplished.  The reorganization of schools after 1957 did much to broaden educational opportunity.


As a basis for comparison with later state appropriations, the total allocated to the Department of Education for all purposes for the 1901-02 biennium was $2,174,678. Sixty-eight years later the biennial appropriations was more than 100 million.

State financial assistance to education originated with the sale of public lands in 1828.  It was increased in 1872 when the Legislature earmarked one mill of tax money for the support of common schools.  In 1909, another mill and a half of tax money was allocated for the support of education with one and a half mills being distributed according to the school census and the other mill on the basis of the town’s valuation.  This action resulted in increasing the funds available from $869,188 in 1909 to $2,377,684 in 1910, the first year the law was in effect.  This was probably the greatest increase in state support ever experienced before or since that time.  The state tax was raised to 3 1/3 mills in 1921 with the establishment of the State School Fund.  This fund provided for all Department expenses with the balance distributed to cities and towns on the basis of $100 per teaching position, $3 for each person on the school census between the ages of 5 and 21, and the remainder, if any, on aggregate attendance. 51

The most significant event relating to financing of education during the thirties was the aforementioned survey made in 1934 under the direction of the Maine Finance Commission and directed by Dr. Paul R. Mort. 52   The study concentrated on potential economics in the operation of schools, more equitable sources of revenue for the state school fund, and the distribution of funds on an equalized basis.  The Commission endeavored to present an accurate portrayal of existing conditions and to improve the financial structure so as to guarantee to all boys and girls a minimum program of educational opportunity.

Among other things the survey found that the cost of education was a small item in the total expenditures of the citizens of the state, that there was a discernible drift of population from rural areas to villages and cities, that the percentage of state monies going to education had dropped from 39 to 16 in the period 1915 to 1931, even though the percentage for highways increased from 23 to 53 per cent in the same period.  It was pointed out that the State Department had not been sufficiently well supported to permit it to give an extensive service.

The Commission recommended that minimum standards be set by the state and that the commissioner of education be granted the power to decrease proportionately aid to those units which failed to meet minimum requirements.  In addition, it recommended the extension of high school facilities and the transportation of secondary pupils.

On the financial side, the report gave recognition to the responsibility of the state for setting up an acceptable foundation program and for distributing the burden over the state in accordance with the people’s ability to pay.  The Commission recognized that it would take time to accomplish its suggestions and stated that under “recovery conditions” the goals might be attained within ten to twenty years.

While the study did not lead to many immediate reforms, it created more interest in education and did much to establish the principle of state responsibility for providing equal educational opportunity for children in all sections of the state.  Undoubtedly it contributed to the adoption of a foundation program in 1949 and the uniform effort tax principle in 1965.

In 1945, the Legislature adopted the policy of making all appropriations from the state’s  general fund and the day of “earmarked funds” for education was at an end.


The need for equalization of tax burdens and educational opportunities was a critical issue during the 20th century.  The first effort was made in 1919 when a special fund of $40,000 was appropriated to strengthen small high schools. 53   Further acceptance of the state’s responsibility for the education of all its children was revealed in two ways in 1920.  An equalization fund deducted from the common school fund, plus interest on reserved lands of unorganized townships totaling $55,621 was distributed to towns having tax rates for school and municipal purposes in excess of the state average.  In the same year, a somewhat unprecedented action was taken when the Governor and Executive Council allocated $100,000 to help towns maintain schools and pay teachers’ salaries under emergency conditions resulting from the high cost of living following World War I.


In 1949, a new formula for the allocation of subsidies was adopted, which divided the 492 separate school units into nine classifications according to wealth.

Another study, know as the Jacobs Study, 54  was authorized in 1955 to examine all expenditures of funds within the jurisdiction of the State Department of Education and particularly the distribution of funds to municipalities on an equitable basis.  A committee was directed by the Legislature to study the state’s educational system to determine the existence of non-productive programs and to recommend methods and techniques for increasing the efficiency of expenditure of educational funds.  It led to the enactment by the Legislature of the Sinclair Act, so-called, which was named for its sponsor and former educator, Roy L. Sinclair, who served as chairman of the joint legislative education committee.  This act provided a minimum foundation program and, perhaps more important, the means of reorganizing small units into larger more efficient school administrative districts embracing all pupils from the kindergarten through high school.  Through this act, some of long-sought goals were achieved, such as establishing a basic educational program for every child, with the state contributing toward fairer equalization of the cost of education between the poorer and wealthier units.  This gave further recognition to education as a state responsibility.

The per pupil allowances in the foundation program have been updated at each session of the Legislature in an attempt to keep pace with increased local costs.  The per pupil allowances, however, have never been realistic in terms of local costs and actually have been approximately two years in arrears at all times.

The adoption of the uniform effort principle in 1965 was another forward step in sound financing of education. 55  Under this law, each unit was required to make a 20 mill effort on an equalized valuation toward the support of the foundation program, with the state supplying the difference between the local assessment and the foundation program.

In the 25 year period from 1940 to 1965, state appropriations for subsidies to local units increased from slightly less that $2 million to nearly $26 million, but the percentage of state support did not increase proportionately and remained fairly constant at approximately 27% in 1965.

In addition to the Foundation Program aid which includes construction aid varying from 20% to 66% according to the wealth of the unit, there are various special subsidies for driver education, vocational education, special education, adult evening schools, education of island children and children of temporary residents, education of orphans, and professional credits for teachers.  From time to time, special subsidies have been consolidated with the general purpose aid, but other special items have come into being.

Presently, the state’s responsibility for underwriting local school operations is accepted, and while state support in Maine is still much below the national average of state support it is on the rise. (31% in 1968-69).


During the early 1900’s there was increasing emphasis on the health and welfare of children attending school, leading to enactment of several new laws.  Among these are found the requirement that a school physician be appointed, children present a certificate for readmission after an illness, school buildings be disinfected, toilet facilities be provided , vaccination for smallpox be required, conveyance to conserve comfort and safety of those transported, drinking water be tested, and teachers and other school employees file a health certificate annually.

The safety of children was also an item of consideration as is evidenced by the requirement that a steam heating system be operated by a qualified and properly licensed person, that proper exits be provided, that all pupils be fingerprinted for identification in case of disaster, that school busses conform to the National School Bus Code and that bus drivers have an annual physical examination.


With the possible exception of financial measures, more laws have been enacted since 1900 for the benefit and extension of services to pupils than on any other educational subject.  Educational opportunities were extended from the kindergarten to part-time and evening classes for out-of-school youth and adults.  Included were programs for physically handicapped and educable mentally retarded youth, practical nursing, vocational and occupational courses, firemanship training, fisheries education, and driver education.

Conveyance was extended for elementary pupils and towns were authorized to convey secondary pupils.  Conveyance of the latter is still optional in the separate towns but is required in the school administrative districts.  Board may be paid and subsidized for island children.  Controversy arose in 1959 over conveyance of pupils to private parochial schools, but was resolved by permissive legislation which allows a town or city to vote to convey these pupils with no state subsidy paid on such expenditures.

Shared-time with private schools was approved in 1965 without opposition, whereby pupils at private schools may attend a public school for a portion of their classes and their attendance at the public schools is prorated for subsidy purposes.

Compulsory attendance laws were strengthened and truancy made a juvenile offense.  The compulsory attendance age was raised from 14 in 1900 to 17 in 1965.

The school year was gradually lengthened from 20 to 26 weeks in 1909, to 30 in 1915, to 32 in 1929, and 36 in 1953.

In 1947, the commissioner was authorized to give the General Education Development Tests and to issue High School Equivalency Diplomas to persons over 21 who have not been able to complete high school.  The importance of this service to individuals is indicated by the issuance of some 1,500 equivalency certificates annually.

These and many other acts indicate a concern by the state for the individual and especially a desire to extend educational opportunity.   


The national trend toward consolidation of small school units into larger and more efficient units has had a successful counterpart in Maine.  Prior to 1947, most of the towns had consolidated their elementary schools into central schools with a single grade per teacher, but many small high schools were still in operation.  It was recognized for years that these small schools were extremely expensive and inefficient; that they were wasteful of personnel when there was a shortage of qualified teachers; and what was worse they offered a very limited curriculum.

In 1947, a very significant law known as the Community School District Act was passed, allowing towns to join together to operate a secondary school. 56   There were no financial incentives or inducements except that two or more towns might have a better secondary school if they joined together.  Much of the leadership in this action was given by Commissioner Harland A. Ladd and Senator Carroll L. McKusick, a former teacher and chairman of the joint legislative committee on education.  Later Senator McKusick served for many years on the State Board of Education.  A few districts were formed where it was mutually beneficial for towns to join together and these community school districts were considered as model schools for rural areas.  However, due to the lack of financial rewards for operation or construction of facilities only six districts were formed involving 32 towns.

The Community School District Act, however, is significant in that it was the forerunner of the Sinclair Act of 1957 which provided additional state assistance when towns joined together.  This act included all grades kindergarten through twelve and Maine was spared the ills or overlapping intermediate districts.  The Community School Districts soon converted to the new type administrative district.  Since 1947 great progress has been made.  The number of small high schools has been drastically reduced by the formation of 77 administrative districts embracing 289 towns.  The districts educate over two-thirds of all pupils in the state and the consensus of opinion is that better education is resulting.


The formation of the school administrative districts was not accepted unanimously and wholeheartedly in all sections of the state.  In the early history of administrative district formation, many questions were raised and in a few areas cases were carried through the courts.  School Administrative District #3 in Waldo County comprising ten towns had more than is share of legal troubles and was the battleground where the legal problems for all districts were fought to a conclusion.  The decisions were generally favorable to the district and the court was somewhat irked by having the same questions presented repeatedly.  In one case, the Superior Court said the issue had been laid to rest and the parties could not litigate it again.  The Court appeared to be in tune with the space age terminology of the times for in a 1962 decision Judge Armand Dufresne wrote, “The pad from which they (the plaintiffs) say their legal rocket skip is now being prepared for launching is Landover vs. Denner.  Unless the plaintiffs in their count down realize that their vehicle must be completely overhauled, they shall witness the major fizzle of the century.” 57   Needless to say the complaint was dismissed with prejudice and with costs.


Standards for high schools developed slowly.  In 1909, an act designed for the improvement of free high schools established three classes of approval.  Schools which maintained at least one approved course of study for four years of 36 weeks each and expended at least $500 for instruction was to be classified as a B school; and a school which maintained at least one approved course of study for four years of 30 weeks each and expended $450 was called a Class C school.  Recognition of the relationship between the curricular offering and level of expenditure is evident for the first time in legal terms.  In 1915, the commissioner’s authority was strengthened by an act requiring that the course of study prescribed by him be followed.  It was some years before truly broad-based standards for curriculum approval were established.  As late as 1930, the statutes stated that “the ancient or modern languages and music shall not be taught except by direction of the Superintending School Committee.”  These barriers were gradually overcome and more flexibility allowed. 58

In 1955, a system of state accreditation of secondary schools was authorized in addition to the basic minimum approval which had been required of all schools in order to operate and to be eligible to collect tuition and receive state subsidy.  The new level of classification was optional and its standards were designed to reflect a high quality program.  The commissioner was assisted in developing standards by an advisory committee composed of representatives of both public and private schools.  The criteria have been reviewed periodically and increased emphasis in recent years has been placed on quality of instruction as compared with facilities.

The accreditation program has been credited with stimulating many worthwhile improvements in local schools, such as a program to meet the needs of pupils with differing abilities, expansion of libraries with an accompanying increase in the use of supplementary books and teaching aids, reduction in teaching loads, and greater emphasis upon the preparation of teachers.

In 1963, the Department reported that the accreditation program had resulted in far-reaching improvements and that probably more had been achieved by it than any other single development in the past 50 years.  In a decade, 59 out of 125 public secondary schools were accredited.  In 1965 plans were initiated to extend accreditation to elementary schools.


In 1900, the state normal schools and Madawaska Training School were under the jurisdiction of a Normal School Board of Trustees.  The state superintendent was the executive officer for the Board and was nominally in charge until 1930 when the deputy commissioner was assigned this responsibility.  The annual appropriations in 1900 was only $31,000 as compared with approximately $3,800,000  65 years later.  In addition some $5,000,000 was made available for capital outlay in 1965.

In 1949, the Normal School Board was terminated and its duties were assumed by the newly created State Board of Education. 59   The two-and three-year normal schools gradually emerged as state teacher colleges with degree-granting status and in 1965 became state colleges with authority, subject to State Board approval, to offer five-year programs and grant appropriate degrees.

A State Advisory Commission on Education was created in 1964 to make recommendations for improved coordination of public higher education.  The Commission advocated a merger of all public institutions into a University of the State of Maine but the original proposal failed of passage in the Legislature.  A legislative committee was appointed to continue efforts to effect coordination which would avoid overlapping and duplication of services by various boards and institutions.

In special session, the 103rd Legislature approved formation of a super university to include the University of Maine at Orono, Portland, and Augusta, and the five state colleges.  A chancellor was selected and the amalgamation was effected with the beginning of the school year of 1968-1969.


Growth in the number of professional personnel and accompanying clerical staff has been substantial and accelerated in recent years.  In 1920, the Department consisted of a state superintendent, a deputy, two rural educators, and directors of programs for vocational rehabilitation, home economics, industrial education, secondary schools and schools in the unorganized territory.  From such a modest beginning has evolved, in 1970, a staff of 180 professional and clerical personnel.  Positions have been added, from time to time, to meet the demand by the schools for services.  All Department personnel are in the classified service with the exception of the commissioner who is selected by the State Board of Education.  His salary is set by statute.  The Board has repeatedly advocated removing the commissioner’s salary from the statutes and allowing the Board to set the salary, believing that the agency with selects the commissioner should have the prerogative to establish the compensation; but the Legislature has been reluctant to relinquish its authority in that respect.

The organization of the Department is determined by the Board, which, on the recommendation of the commissioner, may organize and, from time to time, reorganize the Department into divisions, branches or sections as may be found necessary or desirable in order that it may perform all proper functions and render maximum service. 

In 1954, the Department had grown to the point where a reorganization was necessary and on the recommendation of Commissioner Warren G. Hill the staff was grouped into six major divisions and sub-divisions know as bureaus. 60   The organizational pattern conformed quite closely to national trends with adaptations to Maine’s needs.

Organizational Chart


This division has the responsibility for assisting in the organization of towns into school administrative districts.  District formation was at first a responsibility of an agency known as the Maine School District Commission and was transferred to the Department of Education on December 31, 1963. At the same time the director for the Commission, Asa A. Gordon, transferred to the Department of Education and continued in a role of aggressive leadership in district reorganization.  The success of his efforts is attested by the formation of 77 districts comprising over two-thirds of the units in the state.  This division also includes a Bureau of Research which is concerned with automatic data processing and compilation of statistics.  This activity is relatively recent and made possible by federal funds.  It has resulted in more reliable statistics, available more quickly and accurately than was possible by hand labor.


This division has been headed in recent years by Chester T. Booth, a veteran in department service who is knowledgeable and exceptionally well informed on all of the myriad financial operations.  The scope of the division’s responsibility is indicated by a 1969-1971 biennial budget of nearly 100 million dollars involving approximately 150 accounts and many separate activities within the accounts.


The primary functions of this division are the planning and development of school facilities, financing of school construction and the supervision of pupil transportation.  In addition it administers the distribution of surplus foods and surplus properties, and the school nutrition programs.  The administrator, Dr. Keith Crockett, also serves as the treasurer of the Maine School Building Authority which is an agency created to assist local units in providing school buildings when local borrowing power is inadequate to provide minimum facilities.  This agency has constructed 63 separate projects in 63 municipalities at a cost of $11,207,823.


The Division of Professional Services has two related areas of responsibility-higher education and the certification and placement of teachers.

The development of certification has been commented on earlier in this report.  The size of the undertaking, which is directed currently by J. Wilfrid Morin, is illustrated by the fact that biennially some 11,000 credentials are processed and approximately 57,000 interviews are held.

Maine has operated an active teacher placement bureau which has rendered valuable service to both teachers and employing officials.  During the past biennium, 4,796 teachers and principals were assisted in securing positions.

The operation of the five state colleges, Aroostook, Farmington, Fort Kent, Gorham, and Washington, was a major assignment until the institutions became part of the University of Maine in 1967.  While the function of the colleges was primarily to prepare elementary teachers, other areas of concentration included art, business, health and physical education, home economics, industrial arts, music, and special education of the handicapped and mentally retarded.


The Division of Instruction not only has the greatest number of staff members, but has the greatest responsibility for improvement of the instructional programs of the public schools.  It is organized into four separate bureaus under the overall direction of Ray A. Cook.

The Bureau of Elementary Education includes consultants in the several subject areas.  The transfer of supervision of the Indian Reservation Schools from the Department of Health and Welfare, in 1965 added another assignment.

The Bureau of Secondary Education is responsible for services to secondary schools.  It also has driver education, educational television and newspapers-in-the-classroom programs, as well as overall administration of the programs of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965.

The Bureau of Guidance and Special Education has oversight over guidance services, special education of the physically handicapped and mentally retarded, adult education and civil defense.

The Bureau of Vocational Education is responsible for directing the operation of five post-secondary vocational-technical institutes, three practical nursing schools and administration and supervision of programs in agriculture, business and distributive education, trade and industrial education, fire service training, home economics, and manpower development and training. 


The Division of Vocational Rehabilitation which has been in operation since 1923 was a part of the State Department of Education until its transfer to the Department of Health and Welfare in 1969.  It has assisted many handicapped persons to become self supporting.  The growth of its staff has been gradual from one person in 1923 to 39 in 1965.


The first example of federal educational assistance affecting Maine antedates the national constitution and is found in the Northwest Ordinance of 1785, and under the Articles of Confederation which declared “Schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged” and specified that land should be reserved for the schools and other purposes.

The origin of the school lots, still existing in many Maine towns, dates back to 1788 when the Legislature of Massachusetts enacted a law providing that in the distribution of all towns, thereafter, four lots, of 320 acres each, should be reserved for certain purposes.  The first was for the first settled minister and was known as the “minister lot.” The second was for the use of the ministry and was known as the “ministerial lot.”  The third was for the support of common schools and became known as the “school lot,” while the fourth was reserved for the future disposition of the state and was called the “state lot.”

The articles of separation from Massachusetts in 1820 provided that Maine should carry out all the regulations regarding the sale and settlement of wild lands embraced in the original plan, unless the consent of the state was obtained for any change in policy.  For several years after Maine became a state, these lots were reserved in accordance with the plan adopted in 1788.  In 1832, Maine changed the law providing for the disposition of these lots.  By the new law, the minister’s claim was ignored and all the land up to the 1,000 acres was reserved for the support of common schools.  The fund created by the sale of grass and timber from these lots, together with the money received for the land itself, was to be a permanent fund for the benefit of schools.

In several towns of the state, the fund is still intact and interest is added each year to the funds derived from other sources for the support of schools.  Among the largest funds now existing are those of Bancroft of $12,897, Eustis of $40,464, Wade of $52,544 and Westmanland Plantation of $20,728.  These funds may not seem large in today’s fiscal transactions, but the units are small and the income does represent a significant source of revenue.

The next impact of federal aid upon Maine education came with the passage of the Smith-Hughes Vocational Act of 1917.  A state plan for extending vocational education was developed and thereafter a director of vocational education and supervisors of agriculture, industrial arts and home economics were employed.  The state superintendent served as chairman of a State Board of Vocational Education which was required under the act.  This Board was later superseded by the State Board of Education when it was created in 1949.  Further funds were provided and programs extended under the George-Barden Act of 1946 and the Vocational Education Act of 1963.  The grants of federal funds stimulated local efforts and led to the acceptance and establishment of courses in vocational education in many high schools.

Prior to the passage of the National Defense Education Act, Public Law 874, providing aid to federally-impacted areas, was by far the largest federal aid program affecting 79 separate units and amounting to approximately three million dollars annually.  The largest recipients were Limestone, Bangor, Presque Isle, Brunswick and Kittery.

The National Defense Education Act of 1957 brought much needed funds to strengthen the Department’s supervisory staff and provided for the purchase of equipment by local schools.  The Department had recognized the need for subject matter supervisors for years, but except in vocational education which was federally assisted, had not been able to convince the Legislature of the necessity.  This act made it possible to employ state supervisors in science, mathematics, foreign languages, social studies and reading and to add a second person in guidance.

Under Title VII, the Maine Department of Education had a substantial grant for a research program entitled “The Identification and Evaluation of an Economical and Practical Method of Providing Intellectual Stimulation to Gifted Pupils in Small Secondary Schools Through a Televised Instruction Program.”

The statistical services of the Department were improved and extended under Title X.  Procedures for the collection of information and methods of reporting were revised in keeping with federal handbooks and Maine data were made more reliable and consistent with practices followed elsewhere.

ESEA OF 1965

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 has had the greatest impact on education in Maine of any federally funded program.  Title I projects amounting to approximately $4,000,000 provided funds for the employment of teacher aides to work with classroom teachers, remedial programs in the basic skill subjects, extension of the school day, evening programs of supervised study and individual help, classes for the mentally retarded, and speech therapy.  The programs were designed to assist the underprivileged and all the funds were utilized.

Title II funds of the same act made it possible to purchase much needed library books and materials.  The State has served as the agency for the distribution of books and other material to religious and other independent schools.  Under the State plan the books are purchased by the State and loaned to the private schools.  This plan was approved by the attorney-general on the basis that the funds were federal funds and that federal law allows participation by non-public schools.  The program closed temporarily when federal subsidy was no longer provided, but the effect on school libraries continues to be felt.

Under Title III, Maine was commended for submitting more worthwhile projects than most of the other states.  The scope of these projects has been broad, covering such proposals as Music in Maine which has brought expert instructional techniques and devices to the schools of one area.  Others with well-chosen names to indicate their purpose were The Space Age Curriculum, a Marine Program; a Demonstration Teaching Center for Slow Learners; Operation Lighthouse and Treasure Hunt.

Title V of the same act, which was designed to strengthen state departments of education, has been used to supplement state efforts where gaps in needed services existed.  The first emphasis was placed on in-service training of staff members, with the conviction that department personnel who are to advise and give leadership to school officials should be exposed to the newest educational theories and should be equal or superior in formal preparation to those they serve, and thereby command respect.  Other Department projects have included the employment of a coordinator of Federal Assistance Programs, a coordinator of teacher education and state supervisors for fine arts.

While the Elementary and Secondary Education Act projects and activities are in their infancy, it is evident that Maine teachers, superintendents and school boards are not opposed to innovation and creative activities but are actively engaging in experimentation.

The State has had a high degree of utilization of federal funds in other areas.  The Higher Education Facilities Act, which has distributed several millions of dollars to colleges and the state university, has been administered by the State Board of Education acting as the Higher Education Facilities Commission.  The Vocational Act of 1963 has stimulated vocational courses in secondary schools and been used in expansion of post-secondary vocational-technical institutes.  The Manpower Development and Training Act, jointly operated with the Employment Security Commission, has made training and retraining possible for members of the labor force.  Others under which substantial grants have been received and distributed include head start, rehabilitation, surplus foods and commodities, school lunch, special milk and civil defense.


The Department of Education has moved from a one-man role to making increased use of advisory committees composed of lay and professional personnel.  The philosophy which has governed these activities was expressed in 1938 by Commissioner Packard in these words “I have a conviction that a better type of educational opportunity for our youth depends, in large measure, on informed public opinion.  Any far-sighted school official should lay his plans with the cooperation of teachers, school committees, influential citizens, and friends of education in the state.” 63

The use of advisory committees appears to have begun with vocational education in 1917 and has been used with excellent results in other fields.  The advisory committee on certification standards created by the State Board of Education correlated the thinking of professional and lay persons on this most troublesome subject and provided a basis for changes in regulations.

A Governor’s Advisory Committee on Education consisting of near 100 members was influential in developing and supporting sound and progressive educational measures for a number of years.  An Educational Conference Board with representation from numerous organizations having an interest in youth devoted much time and study to educational matters and spoke for the combined membership of the organization at legislative hearings.  Other advisory committees have been formed as need has arisen and their assistance has been considered beneficial.


The role of the Maine Department of Education has been one of constant effort to provide leadership and service.  Progress and change have not been spectacular, but the slow and steady pace has been due more to the lack of economic resources than any lack of desire.  Two world wars with accompanying shortages of teachers and other personnel, and a major depression had retarding effects, but education as measured by the opportunities offered to students has emerged in a stronger position than at any other time during the period covered.  The leaders and legislative powers in Maine have not rushed to embrace every new idea proposed.  Perhaps for this reason there are few instances were a program once begun has failed or been discontinued.  The Department of Education has given top priority at all times to assisting local school officials and citizens and to providing the leadership and coordination needed to develop and implement statewide plans to attain desirable educational goals.  The growth of staff and expansion of services in recent years has added to its influence.

A review of the Maine State Department of Education in 1967, arranged by the United States Office of Education at the request of Commissioner William T. Logan, Jr., and made by an eminent group of nationally-prominent educators supplemented by local legislators and citizens, describes the Department as one which “has grown from a small, service-oriented agency to one providing educational leadership.  The Department has attained a higher level of service and leadership, while remaining sensitive to the principle that the ultimate responsibility for education resides with the citizens of the state in the local communities.” 64   It commended the Department’s strategy and philosophy in dealing with local educational agencies and in particular the efforts to facilitate school district reorganization which were characterized by excellent leadership techniques.  It found this leadership reflected in the professional attitude of teaching and administrative personnel in local schools throughout the State.  It found that the Department had exercised a goodly degree of flexibility in beginning new programs with federal funds without disrupting its services to local agencies.  Among deficiencies, the reviewers found that the salary schedule for staff members was unsatisfactory but commended the program of allowing leave for advance study.  It considered that additional space was the most pressing requirement and felt that efficiency was being threatened by crowded conditions.  It also recommended additional staff in the office of public relations to provide better communication between the Department and the general public.

Despite the deficiencies in the salary schedule and lack of space, it concluded that the Department was functioning “efficiently in mounting the constantly increasing dimensions of an educational program for the state.” 65

Events Since April 1970 
(additional events which occurred in 1970 before booklet went to print)