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History of Education in Utah

Taken from the Utah History Encyclopedia (Links Added)
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Partly in response to the increasing secularization of the district schools and the perceived threat posed by Protestant mission schools, the Mormon Church in the 1870s and 1880s organized a private secondary school system. However, because of economic exigencies, by 1933 the LDS Church had discontinued its support of private secondary schools in Utah, turning some of them over to the state for a nominal fee. Public secondary schools were made more acceptable to the Mormons because of the organization in about 1912 of a parallel released-time program funded entirely by the LDS Church which allowed Mormon students to integrate religious education with their public school studies through attendance at LDS seminaries built adjacent to high schools. Although most Utah school districts gave students graduation credits for attendance at seminary classes, a 1981 Federal court ruling disallowed such credit as being unconstitutional, while upholding the constitutionality of the released-time program.

Education in the nineteenth-century Utah was shaped in part by the conflicts between Mormons and non-Mormons. During the twentieth century, however, it is just as evident that it has been shaped less by local circumstances than by the national social, economic and political environment and mirrors very closely national educational issues. For example, the demands for a business-like approach to the management of the burgeoning school systems led to demands for more efficiency in the management of tax-money. This in turn led to demands for consolidation and centralization of schools--two movements which typified the early twentieth century and for which Utah was praised nationally. Utah's response during the Progressive era gained it national attention and its concern for the welfare of children in and out of school was described by one national historian as "social uplift with a vengeance." In the late 1930s there was a national trend toward increased state funding of education, and once again Utah shared in this movement to improve the economic lot of teachers.


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