150 Years of Education in Maine

1820 – 1970

Sesqui-centennial History of Maine’s Educational System and the Growth and Development


150 Years

Part I -- Education in Maine Prior to 1900

Early Schools

The First Schoolhouses

School Districts

A State Board of Education

State Supervision

Teacher Education

State Finance

Part II -- Development of the State Department of Education

Growth of Responsibilities of the Chief State School Officer

Chief State School Officers


The Department and the Teacher


Teacher Retirement

Minimum Salaries for Teachers

Other Benefits to Teachers

Curriculum and Instructional Developments

The Lighthouse Teacher

Curriculum Development

The Mort Report

Educational Finance

Equalized Tax Efforts

The Jacobs Study

The State and Welfare of Children

Extension of Services to Pupils

School District Organization

Court Action

State Standards and Accreditation of Schools

The State and Higher Education

Department Organization

ESEA of 1965

The State Department and Advisory Committees


Events since April 1970


(Originally printed as a booklet under P.L. 89-10, Title V grant in 1970 Reformatted for DOE Website in 2000)



This book deals primarily with the expanding role of the Maine State Department of Education since 1900, but is prefaced by a brief commentary on the beginnings of public education in the state and the development of the Department as a service and leadership agency.

The writing was done as a part of a nationwide study of state departments of education in conjunction with the Council of Chief State School Officers. If the author were to draw one conclusion, based on the research conducted, it would be that the State Department of Education in Maine has played an important role in making educational opportunity more readily available.

The book contains information on the evaluation and historical development of the office of State Superintendent of Schools or Commissioner of Education from the relatively simple activities of the early years to the more complex staff organization of recent times. Information is presented relating to the growth of teaching as a profession, curriculum and instructional developments, finance, school district reorganization and Federal assistance programs.

Grateful acknowledgement is made to Jim B. Pearson, Project Director, and Edgar Fuller, Executive Secretary of the Chief State School Officers, for their cooperation. I also wish to recognize especially Miss Marion Cooper, Information Officer, Maine Department of Education, for her assistance in the research and in editing the material and Miss Marilyn Dixon for her patience in typing and retyping the manuscript.

Kermit S. Nickerson

Deputy Commissioner of Education

April 1970

150 Years

As Maine observes its 150th anniversary of Statehood, the State Board of Education is pleased to present this commentary on the educational accomplishment of the state and its people. The research undertaken by Dr. Kermit S. Nickerson before compiling this account was long and careful.

It is gratifying to realize that the State’s concern for the education of its youth is as old as the state itself. Article VIII of the Constitution, entitled “Literature,” says, in part:

“A general diffusion of the advantages of education being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people; to promote this important object, the Legislature are authorized, and it shall be their duty to require, the several towns to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public schools....”

Recognition of state responsibility was evident in the first session of the Legislature, when appropriations were made to Bowdoin College and the Maine Literary and Theological Institute.

At the second session, the first elementary act was passed, requiring each town to raise a minimum amount of money for support of schools; and by 1828 the state, itself, was making financial contributions toward the operation of local elementary schools. This practice has been continued until presently the state’s share is 33% of the total cost of public school education. We are proud of the many improvements in Maine education and of the progressive accomplishments since the establishment of the State Department of Education in 1854.

While the State Board of Education is, in historical terms, relatively young, it will be observing its 21st birthday this summer.

The Board and the Department are proud to join in the 150th anniversary observance of the State of Maine.

Charles F. Bragg, II

Chairman, Maine State Board of Education