Utah’s Teachers and Students, 1870 to 1899

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For background information see Education funding in early Utah, 1870-1899.

In 1870 the Utah Territory Superintendent of Public Schools Robert L. Cambell wrote,

The universal interrogatory by school trustees from every part of the Territory, who are attending to their duties, is: Can you send us a qualified teacher! (Report of the Commissioner of Education, 1870, p. 328).

Because very little money for public schools came from taxes Utah’s educators were under constant stress to meet the educational demands of the territory. Teachers pay came primarily from pro-rated tuition fees. Few schools in the territory were completely tax supported and the tax that was levied was primarily intended for construction and maintenance of school buildings.

Stress on education
Utah's first schools were small and the buildings were typically simple one room structures. Tax support for public schools was weak and sometimes teachers were paid in produce. This early state of affairs was understandable. But as the territory developed the cost of providing education increased. A larger population meant more schools, more classes per school, and larger buildings. Moving to a graded system meant teachers needed more specialized training and schools had greater administrative needs. Larger buildings had grounds and other physical facilities to be maintained. Without significant tax support the infrastructure and staff were under constant stress to meet the educational needs of the territory.

Some general comments
Figure 1: These statistics are for Utah only. 

From 1870 to 1889 Utah was acquiring 17.8 new teachers per year for the common schools. However, the 5-18 school age population was growing at a rate of 2,284 persons per year, enrollment was growing at a rate of 1,161 new enrollments per year, and average daily attendance was increasing at a rate of 550 students per year. The increase in average daily attendance per increase in the number of teachers is 31. That is, each year there were 31 new students attending for each new teacher, which amounts to one large class for every new teacher. (You can see this in figure. Also note the dramatic effect of the 1890 free school act.) For the United States from 1870-'99 the (average attendance)/teacher ratio was around 25.

Figure 2: The red dots indicate the value of Utah. The boxplots are for the states and territories of the United States, Utah omitted. 

Note the large difference in pay between male and female teachers. The gap is not the highest in the nation, but it is near the top. For the most part female teachers in the United States were paid less than male teachers for the same work. Part of this was due to social roles. Male teachers with a family were expected to be the breadwinner and were paid more. Female teachers would be expected to marry and would not be seen as pursuing a teaching career. Utah was no exception to this rule. Another factor that could have widened the gap in Utah is that some districts required teachers to collect their own tuition fees, sometimes from reluctant parents. The male teachers might have been more assertive in collecting the fee. Also note, the numbers for 1878, '79, '80, and '81 are identical. Utah reported average teachers pay for the year 1878 but did not report pay for the other three years. Consequently the 1878 number was repeated in the following three COE reports.

Another interesting point is the ratio of pupils in attendance per teacher. Despite the dramatic increase in the number of teachers following the 1890 Free School Act, by 1899 the number of students in attendance per teacher was very high. In 1896, the year Utah became a state, it was at its highest value in thirty years and as far as I can tell it was the highest in the United States. It appears that the Free School Act precipitated a mass migration out of the private denominational schools (Protestant, Catholic, and LDS) into the public school system. The 1889-'90 COE report indicates that 20.94% of the 5-18 population were enrolled in private schools. The next highest percent for the Western Division was California at 8% (vol. 1, p. 16). The 1891-'92 COE report indicates 16.47% of Utah’s school age children were enrolled in private schools (vol. 1, p. 64). By 1895 it was down to 2.22% (vol. 1, p. LXIX). In 1896 it was 3.43% (vol. 1, LXVIII), and in 1899 it was 2.31% (vol. 1, LXXIV). Though the number of teachers was increasing rapidly, the average attendance increased so fast that the attendance/teacher ratio actually increased, indicating that a significant portion of the educational needs of the territory were being met by private institutions.

The above figure is based on my estimate of the 5-18 populations for the states and territories.

The above figure is based on attendance in the common schools only.  

The above figure is based on attendance in the common schools only.

End Notes__________
[1] Education in Utah, Levi Edgar Young, “Education in Utah,” Improvement Era, July 1913, vol. 16, no. 9.

[2] From the LDS Biographical Encyclopedia,

Brother [Levi Edgar] Young was educated in the public schools in Salt Lake City and in 1915 received his B. S. degree from the University of Utah. After that he spent two seasons in Harvard University and one year in Columbia, New York, doing graduate work in history. He holds the degree of M. A. from Columbia, and for his doctor's degree in philosophy his theses was the "Economic and social development of Utah under Brigham Young's leadership." He now holds the chair of American History at the University of Utah and is engaged in doing original research work in western American history. He is also spending much time in archeological work within the confines of the State. In 1916 he took charge of an exploring expedition in San Juan county, Utah, returning to Salt Lake City July 26, 1916. Elder Young is president of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association ( 1919-20 ), is a member of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the American Historical Association, and the American Anthropological Association. (LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, vol. 3, p. 798)

He was ordained a Seventy in 1897.

[3] Young, L. E., “The Pioneers and Early Education,” The Utah Educational Review,” April-May 1913, vol. 6, no. 8, pp. 38-43.