In the nineteenth century, American public schools (common schools) were established so that all social classes had the opportunity to receive an education. Prior to this, only private schools existed, which the lower classes could not afford. While it wasn’t the consensus right away, a government-funded school system using taxes from both the upper and lower classes eventually came to fruition. The common reason was simple; all children should learn how to read and write. Children were worth the investment, basically. This would create a more level playing field with employment opportunities and break down the walls between the classes.
Indeed, some authors most likely did believe that the public schools “existed chiefly to educate the children of the poor.” The poor benefited a great deal, which was one of the reasons behind the education movement. The people who disagreed with the movement feared change. Would taxes be too high? Would private teachers suffer a decrease in pay? Would religion be taught sufficiently? However, these fears were laid to rest by the many advocates who believed in education for all.
Many years prior to the education movement, Thomas Jefferson was a big proponent of public education and believed that an educated population would create a freer and happier America. If you would like to read more of his thoughts and learn about the major players behind the education movement, please visit the site linked below.