From 1945 to 1980
WHEN HEARINGS on federal aid to education were held in 1945 and teachers came from around the nation to tell the Congress about the needs of their schools, the problems of American education seemed nearly insoluble. It was no accident that the teachers who testified came from rural districts, because it was there that the schools were in the direst financial straits. Urban districts were conspicuous by their absence from these hearings, because they were considered relatively privileged, well staffed, and well financed. Rural schools, however, suffered from low funding, poor facilities, obsolete teaching materials, and a critical teacher shortage.
Inequitable funding was only the most immediate problem, however. Whether urban or rural, privileged or poor, American schools reflected the racial bias that was common in the larger society. In many states, this bias was institutionalized in racially separate schools where black students received fewer months of schooling and had teachers who had less training and lower pay than their white peers. So deeply imbedded was the practice of racial segregation that there seemed little reason to believe, at war's end, that any political change might be seismic enough to destroy the power of state-enforced racial segregation. Furthermore, access to higher education