I just went through the budget for 1921, and it was boring. You may want to skip this article. It does reflect education after the First World War. Education continued through the conflagration. I personally found the numbers interesting because they reflect pay and other amounts of expenditures which also reflect the commitment of the city towards education. This was in a time when the School Committee had fiscal autonomy. They did not have to answer to anyone except the voters. This system was in place until the 1970’s or 1980’s. Then, the budget was trimmed and the role of the School Committee became to appoint the Superintendent and make sure he was doing a good job, which, if he was not, could land in his termination of employment.
In 1921, the total budget for teacher’s salaries for the academic high school was: $200,411.44
Junior High Schools: $167,227.01
Primary and Mixed Schools: $194,580. 47
Special Teachers: $45,407.38
For a total for the day schools of $872,709.51, This did not include the evening or trade schools. The average number of students in the classroom was broken down to:
Average number of persons in the Day Schools, see the figures above: 13,917 students in day classes
Average number of persons in a class:
Junior High School 36
Grammar School 42
Primary School 47
Special or Mixed 39
In addition there were two hundred forty three students in Vocational Schools. The Vocational or Trade School kept better track of invoices and reported on the total amount of money owed in 1921 by the vocational school(s). The total amount spent by the Trade School was:
Teacher’s Salaries: $53,858.40
Salaries of Night School $4,899.05
Total Vocational Salaries $86,520.08
Tuition Charged: $25,297.29
They even kept track of students by age. Those numbers included:
Five years of age and under: $3,307.00
Seven years of age & under: $15,217.00
The figures for the students older than seven are not clear in the Minutes of the School Committee so I cannot report on them. The School Committee did report that students above the age of 14 and under the age of 19 garnered a payment of 163,691.00.
The School Committee had this to say about the inevitable expansion, “City will be called upon to spend reasonable amounts of money at a number of points, rather than a large sum at any one point.” (Superintendent’s Report). The high school, which consisted of the 1893 building was “comfortably filled.” They went on to say “Although by no means crowded. This before they started constructing a large building in 1922. That is when the cornerstone was laid. They did note that the Junior High Schools including the Bartlett, Butler, Morey, and Varnum Schools “are filled to capacity.”
The School Committee put together a bill to pay for the 1922 building at the High School at this time. The feeder schools to the high school was those in the junior high school category. At this time, high school became part of normal schooling. It was no longer just a bastion for those who wanted to further their schooling. The Trade School was filled to capacity and it was in what is now the Clement McDonough School which currently is the Freshman Academy in the Lowell School system. I know that sounds confusing and it is a little.
The gist of the history of the Lowell Public School system was how committed these immigrants were to their children’s education. The entire town paid for its school system. It was a center of the entire heart of the City. 1921 was just a microcosm of the years of sacrifices everyone put together for the children in the system. They kept track of the money. They hired new Superintendents. They kept the best teachers. It was a system which reflected hope. You could do better than your parents, but even your parents could work a full day and go on to school at night. It was a vibrant school system.
I will cover WWI and WWII effects on the school system. What is amazing is the sense of responsibility the parents and taxpayers had to the school system. It is heartening. The figures I included just show the level of commitment to the system.