Missouri School Boards’ Association
The school board is a unique institution in American culture. It has served to keep schools close to the people as our system of public education has changed over the years. School boards offer citizens from all walks of life the opportunity to determine the community’s direction and vision for their children’s education.
From its very beginning as a state, Missourians have recognized the importance of locally controlled public schools. The Act of 1820, which allowed Missouri to become a state, established the township as the first way of organizing schools. This system led to the creation of many small, autonomous schools governed by local citizens. Then, in 1839, the Geyer Act was passed. This Act is generally recognized as the real beginning of organized education in Missouri. It eliminated the township system and created what were known as sub-districts governed by three trustees. Another sweeping revision of Missouri’s education laws in 1874, gave almost complete control of schools over to local citizens. Among other things, citizens were empowered to elect local school district directors. By 1878, there were about 10,000 separate school districts in Missouri. No more than 100 of them offered courses above the elementary level. These thousands of school districts brought education within reach of nearly all the population and led to the pattern of school district development in the 20th century.
Many changes took place in Missouri’s schools during the early part of this century. New laws were adopted to require a longer school year, longer than the traditional three-month school year that had been in place. Training and certification requirements for teachers were strengthened. School districts consolidated. A compulsory attendance law was passed in 1905.
In 1936, a group of school board members in the state decided to get together once in a while to share ideas and exchange information. In 1942, officers of this loose knit group were elected. In 1954, members decided to incorporate the organization and call it the Missouri School Boards Association. In 1958, the existing corporation was dissolved and the organization was incorporated under a new state law providing for the incorporation of non-profit organizations. It was the beginning of the Missouri School Boards Association we know today.
The early activities of MSBA consisted primarily of an annual meeting. Dues at the time ranged from $2 for a one room rural school to $40 for the largest school districts in the state. In 1959, the legislature established the legality of expending local school funds for the payment of membership dues. But the law also prohibited the association from spending funds from membership dues to influence legislation before the General Assembly, a restriction that was later removed.
The early focus of MSBA was on monitoring legislation. In the early 1960’s activities related to board member training were also established. Those two areas remain a fundamental part of MSBA’s activities to this day.
Eight regions were established by MSBA in 1962. In 1981, the state was divided into 13 regions and divided again in 2006 making a total of 17 regions.
MSBA was housed in Hill Hall on the University of Missouri-Columbia campus from 1958 until 1979 when the office was moved to Noyes Hall at MU.
In January 1985 the office was relocated to Vandiver Drive in Columbia where it remained until 1987. The current location of MSBA is at 2100 I-70 Drive Southwest in Columbia. In September 1999 MSBA opened a satellite office in Jefferson City for its governmental relations efforts.
Much has changed in the last 50 years. The demands placed on our public schools have increased substantially. The issues board members and superintendents confront today were unheard of just a few short years ago. To meet these challenges, services provided to school boards and administrators through MSBA have expanded, as well. Today members have access to legal services, policy assistance, school board training, financial and insurance programs, cooperative purchasing through the Internet, teleconferences via satellite, technology assistance, and informative publications.
MSBA has strengthened its role as a strong advocate for public education in Missouri, serving as the unified voice of school board members throughout the state. The association also strives to provide members with an opportunity to enhance their skills, expand their knowledge, exchange ideas and discuss important issues with their colleagues.
School boards remain an essential institution to ensure that local communities are connected to their public schools. Whether large or small, urban, suburban or rural, we’re all striving to provide the best educational opportunities for our young people.And we’re doing it together through the Missouri School Boards’ Association.