Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 eText - Primary Source

Primary Source

As the United States entered World War I, attaining a better-prepared labor force and higher agricultural yields became part of the war effort. © SWIM INK/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.As the United States entered World War I, attaining a better-prepared labor force and higher agricultural yields became part of the war effort. © SWIM INK/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION. Published by Gale Cengage © SWIM INK/CORBIS. REPRODUCED BY PERMISSION.

Law

By: Hoke Smith and Dudley M. Hughes

Date: February 23, 1917

Source: Smith-Hughes Act (Vocational Education Act) of 1917. Public Law 347. 64th Cong., 2d sess., February 23, 1917. Reprinted in The Statutes at Large of the United States of America from December, 1915, to March, 1917. Vol. 39, Part 1. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1917, 929–936.

About the Authors: Hoke Smith (1879–1931), known as a staunch advocate for farmers and their interests, began his career as a lawyer. He served two terms as governor of Georgia, and he was appointed Secretary of the Interior under President Grover Cleveland (served 1885–1889 and 1893–1897). Smith was a Democratic senator from Georgia, and chairman of the Commission on National Aid to Vocational Education.

Dudley M. Hughes (1848–1927) attended the University of Georgia and was involved in agricultural businesses. He was a Georgia State Senator from 1882 to 1883, and he served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1909 to 1917. He was Chairman of the House Committee on Education, and he was appointed to the Commission on National Aid to Vocational Education in 1914. He was known as a strong supporter of agricultural education.

Introduction

During the last half of the nineteenth century, the federal government expanded and became more involved in areas previously controlled and funded by state and local governments. While efforts to obtain federal funds for public schools in general were unsuccessful, legislation was passed to aid specific programs, including agricultural education. Important examples are the Morrill Act of 1862 (establishing public colleges for agricultural and mechanical education) and the Hatch Act of 1887 (creating agricultural experiment stations in conjunction with these colleges). This trend continued in the early twentieth century, with the 1914 Smith-Lever Act establishing the Cooperative Extension Service.

After 1900, agriculture and industry groups called for federal aid to provide more vocational education at the secondary level. These calls came in the context of a rapidly expanding industrial sector and resulting shortages of skilled workers, as well as a decline in the traditional apprenticeship system. As the United States entered World War I (1914–1918), attaining a better-prepared labor force and higher agricultural yields became a focus of the war effort. Various bills were introduced seeking federal support for industrial or vocational education in the secondary schools, but none were passed.

In 1906, the National Society for the Promotion of Industrial Education was established for the purpose of obtaining federal funds for industrial education. The group was able to bring together many, sometimes opposing, groups interested in the issue. Charles A. Prosser, as executive secretary of the Society, lobbied for the legislation that would become the Smith-Hughes Act. These efforts paid off and, in 1914, Congress appointed the Commission on National Aid to Vocational Education to study the problem of federal aid to schools for industrial and agricultural education. Prosser and other members of the Society were appointed to the Commission. The 1914 report produced by the Commission indicated a pressing need for the expansion and improvement of vocational education. It recommended that federal assistance be granted to the states for this purpose.

The Commission's report, and the precedent set by the Smith-Lever Act, led to the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act. The provisions of the Act are almost identical to the measures called for in the report, including aid for vocational teacher training and salaries, and the creation of the Federal Board for Vocational Education.

Significance

The Smith-Hughes Act is credited with expediting the process, already begun, toward establishing widespread, quality vocational education in the secondary schools. This resulted in the availability of meaningful, relevant, and practical curricula for non-college bound students. Many proponents view the Act as providing industry with a larger pool of skilled workers and assisting the war effort.

Critics contend that the Act resulted in the segregation of vocational curriculum and students from mainstream education. They also allege that it failed to provide adequate job training in the context of fast-paced technological change. While the progressive education movement, active at the time, generally advocated a more meaningful, hands-on curriculum, some progressive educators, such as John Dewey, described the Smith-Hughes type of vocational education as undemocratic. Dewey charged that narrow preparation for a specific trade for a particular group of students at the secondary level benefits the employers, while depriving the students of an education for meaningful citizenship in a democracy.

The Smith-Hughes Act was amended by the Vocational Education Act of 1963, which gave more freedom to the states to decide how to spend funds. It also dropped the procedure of funding by specific categories: agricultural, industrial, and home economics. Smith-Hughes was repealed in 1997, and the current federal legislation related to vocational education is the Carl Perkins Act (1984, 1990, 1998), which targets disadvantaged populations. It emphasizes accessibility to all and improving the quality of vocational education.

Primary Source: Smith-Hughes Act of 1917 [excerpt]

SYNOPSIS: This excerpt from the text of the Smith-Hughes Act presents the objectives of the act, including cooperating with the states in paying for the training and salaries of vocational teachers, as well as the creation of the Federal Board for Vocational Education to oversee the application of the act. Specifics of the distribution of funds and the responsibilities of the board, including research in the various vocational areas, are outlined.

CHAP. 114.—An Act To provide for the promotion of vocational education; to provide for cooperation with the States in the promotion of such education in agriculture and the trades and industries; to provide for cooperation with the States in the preparation of teachers of vocational subjects; and to appropriate money and regulate its expenditure.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there is hereby annually appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, the sums provided in sections two, three, and four of this Act, to be paid to the respective States for the purpose of cooperating with the States in paying the salaries of teachers, supervisors, and directors of agricultural subjects, and teachers of trade, home economics, and industrial subjects, and in the preparation of teachers of agricultural, trade, industrial, and home economics subjects; and the sum provided for in section seven for the use of the Federal Board for Vocational Education for the administration of this Act and for the purpose of making studies, investigations, and reports to aid in the organization and conduct of vocational education, which sums shall be expended as hereinafter provided.

Sec. 2. That for the purpose of cooperating with the States in paying the salaries of teachers, supervisors, or directors of agricultural subjects there is hereby appropriated for the use of the States, subject to the provisions of this Act, for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and eighteen, the sum of $500,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and nineteen, the sum of $750,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty, the sum of $1,000,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, the sum of $1,250,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, the sum of $1,500,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-three, the sum of $1,750,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-four, the sum of $2,000,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-five, the sum of $2,500,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, and annually thereafter, the sum of $3,000,000. Said sums shall be allotted to the States in the proportion which their rural population bears to the total rural population in the United States, not including outlying possessions, according to the last preceding United States census: Provided, That the allotment of funds to any State shall be not less than a minimum of $5,000 for any fiscal year prior to and including the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-three, nor less than $10,000 for any fiscal year thereafter, and there is hereby appropriated the following sums, or so much thereof as may be necessary, which shall be used for the purpose of providing the minimum allotment to the States provided for in this section: For the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and eighteen, the sum of $48,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and nineteen, the sum of $34,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty, the sum of $24,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, the sum of $18,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, the sum of $14,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-three, the sum of $11,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-four, the sum of $9,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-five, the sum of $34,000; and annually thereafter the sum of $27,000.

Sec. 3. That for the purpose of cooperating with the States in paying the salaries of teachers of trade, home economics, and industrial subjects there is hereby appropriated for the use of the States, for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and eighteen, the sum of $500,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and nineteen, the sum of $750,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty, the sum of $1,000,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, the sum of $1,250,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, the sum of $1,500,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-three, the sum of $1,750,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-four, the sum of $2,000,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-five, the sum of $2,500,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, the sum of $3,000,000; and annually thereafter the sum of $3,000,000. Said sums shall be allotted to the States in the proportion which their urban population bears to the total urban population in the United States, not including outlying possessions, according to the last preceding United States census: Provided, That the allotment of funds to any State shall be not less than a minimum of $5,000 for any fiscal year prior to and including the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-three, nor less than $10,000 for any fiscal year thereafter, and there is hereby appropriated the following sums, or so much thereof as may be needed, which shall be used for the purpose of providing the minimum allotment to the States provided for in this section: For the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and eighteen, the sum of $66,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and nineteen, the sum of $46,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty, the sum of $34,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, the sum of $28,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-two, the sum of $25,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-three, the sum of $22,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-four, the sum of $19,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-five, the sum of $56,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-six, and annually thereafter, the sum of $50,000.

That not more than twenty per centum of the money appropriated under this Act for the payment of salaries of teachers of trade, home economics, and industrial subjects, for any year, shall be expended for the salaries of teachers of home economics subjects.

Sec. 4. That for the purpose of cooperating with the States in preparing teachers, supervisors, and directors of agricultural subjects and teachers of trade and industrial and home economics subjects there is hereby appropriated for the use of the States for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and eighteen, the sum of $500,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and nineteen, the sum of $700,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty, the sum of $900,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, and annually thereafter, the sum of $1,000,000. Said sums shall be allotted to the States in the proportion which their population bears to the total population of the United States, not including outlying possessions, according to the last preceding United States census: Provided, That the allotment of funds to any State shall be not less than a minimum of $5,000 for any fiscal year prior to and including the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and nineteen, nor less than $10,000 for any fiscal year thereafter. And there is hereby appropriated the following sums, or so much thereof as may be needed, which shall be used for the purpose of providing the minimum allotment provided for in this section: For the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and eighteen, the sum of $46,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and nineteen, the sum of $32,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty, the sum of $24,000; for the fiscal year ending June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty-one, and annually thereafter, the sum of $90,000.

Sec. 5. That in order to secure the benefits of the appropriations provided for in sections two, three, and four of this Act, any State shall, through the legislative authority thereof, accept the provisions of this Act and designate or create a State board, consisting of not less than three members, and having all necessary power to cooperate, as herein provided, with the Federal Board for Vocational Education in the administration of the provisions of this Act. The State board of education, or other board having charge of the administration of public education in the State, or any State board having charge of the administration of any kind of vocational education in the State may, if the State so elect, be designated as the State board, for the purposes of this Act.

In any State the legislature of which does not meet in nineteen hundred and seventeen, if the governor of that State, so far as he is authorized to do so, shall accept the provisions of this Act and designate or create a State board of not less than three members to act in cooperation with the Federal Board for Vocational Education, the Federal board shall recognize such local board for the purposes of this Act until the legislature of such State meets in due course and has been in session sixty days.

Any State may accept the benefits of any one or more of the respective funds herein appropriated, and it may defer the acceptance of the benefits of any one or more of such funds, and shall be required to meet only the conditions relative to the fund or funds the benefits of which it has accepted: Provided, That after June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and twenty, no State shall receive any appropriation for salaries of teachers, supervisors, or directors of agricultural subjects, until it shall have taken advantage of at least the minimum amount appropriated for the training of teachers, supervisors, or directors of agricultural subjects, as provided for in this Act, and that after said date no State shall receive any appropriation for the salaries of teachers of trade, home economics, and industrial subjects until it shall have taken advantage of at least the minimum amount appropriated for the training of teachers of trade, home economics, and industrial subjects, as provided for in this Act.

Sec. 6. That a Federal Board for Vocational Education is hereby created, to consist of the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Labor, the United States Commissioner of Education, and three citizens of the United States to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. One of said three citizens shall be a representative of the manufacturing and commercial interests, one a representative of the agricultural interests, and one a representative of labor. The board shall elect annually one of its members as chairman. In the first instance, one of the citizen members shall be appointed for one year, one for two years, and one for three years, and thereafter for three years each. The members of the board other than the members of the Cabinet and the United States Commissioner of Education shall receive a salary of $5,000 per annum.

The board shall have power to cooperate with State boards in carrying out the provisions of this Act. It shall be the duty of the Federal Board for Vocational Education to make, or cause to have made studies, investigations, and reports, with particular reference to their use in aiding the States in the establishment of vocational schools and classes and in giving instruction in agriculture, trades and industries, commerce and commercial pursuits, and home economics. Such studies, investigations, and reports shall include agriculture and agricultural processes and requirements upon agricultural workers; trades, industries, and apprenticeships, trade and industrial requirements upon industrial workers, and classification of industrial processes and pursuits; commerce and commercial pursuits and requirements upon commercial workers; home management, domestic science, and the study of related facts and principles; and problems of administration of vocational schools and of courses of study and instruction in vocational subjects.

When the board deems it advisable such studies, investigations, and reports concerning agriculture, for the purposes of agricultural education, may be made in cooperation with or through the Department of Agriculture; such studies, investigations, and reports concerning trades and industries, for the purposes of trade and industrial education, may be made in cooperation with or through the Department of Labor; such studies, investigations, and reports concerning commerce and commercial pursuits, for the purposes of commercial education, may be made in cooperation with or through the Department of Commerce; such studies, investigations, and reports concerning the administration of vocational schools, courses of study and instruction in vocational subjects, may be made in cooperation with or through the Bureau of Education.

The Commissioner of Education may make such recommendations to the board relative to the administration of this Act as he may from time to time deem advisable. It shall be the duty of the chairman of the board to carry out the rules, regulations, and decisions which the board may adopt. The Federal Board for Vocational Education shall have power to employ such assistants as may be necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act.

Further Resources

BOOKS

Butts, R. Freeman, and Lawrence Cremin. A History of Education in American Culture. New York: Henry Holt, 1953.

Cremin, Lawrence A. The Transformation of the School: Progressivism in American Education, 1876–1957. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1961.

Gordon, Howard R. D. The History and Growth of Vocational Education in America. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1999.

Katznelson, Ira, and Margaret Weir. Schooling for All: Class, Race, and the Decline of the Democratic Ideal. New York: Basic Books, 1985.

McClure, Arthur F. et al. Education for Work: The Historical Evolution of Vocational and Distributive Education in America. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985.

True, Alfred C. A History of Agricultural Education in the United States, 1785–1925. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Miscellaneous Publication No. 36. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1929.

PERIODICALS

Camp, W. G., and J. R Crunkilton. "History of Agricultural Education in America: The Great Individuals and Events." The Journal of the American Association of Teacher Educators in Agriculture 26, no. 1, 1985, 57–63.

Herren, R. "Controversy and Unification: The Passage of the Smith-Hughes Act." The Journal of the American Association of Teacher Educators in Agriculture 27, no. 1, 1986, 39–44.

Hillison, J. "Agricultural Teacher Education Preceding the Smith-Hughes Act." The Journal of the American Association of Teacher Educators in Agriculture 28 no. 2, 1987, 8–17.