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The History of Washington Public Education at the Digital Archives

The children in this undated photograph of a school in the vanished community of Buckeye, do appear to have shoes. Source: Spokane City Historic Preservation Office collection.

Our friends over at HistoryLink, the encyclopedia of Washington State history, remind us that March is the anniversary of one of our most important (and best nicknamed) laws, The Barefoot Schoolboy Act of 1895.

Washington had only been a state for a few years at that point, and the progressive 1889 Constitution of the State of Washington declared that “it is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.” The 1895 act made good on that bold promise by levying new taxes and establishing a statewide $6 allocation for every school-aged child.

The Washington State Archives, Digital Archives has substantial collections that shed light on the history of public education in our state. These include photographs of historic schools, maps that show the locations of long-vanished school houses, and the 1882 Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the Territory of Washington. So pull up a desk and learn about our schools—no shoes are required!

Written by Larry Cebula.