Illinois Regional Archives Depository (IRAD) System Illinois State Archives

Superintendent of Educational Service Region

The act of Congress which admitted Illinois to the Union in 1818 set aside the sixteenth section of every township for the use of schools. In 1819, therefore, the General Assembly directed the county commissioners' court in each county to appoint three trustees from each township. These trustees, whose terms ran for four years, were charged with hiring a surveyor, laying out section 16 into lots, leasing those lots for no more than a ten year period, and appointing a clerk and treasurer to handle the leases.1 In 1827 this was modified to give the trustees responsibility for laying out school districts within the township. These districts were to contain no fewer than 18 scholars, and the trustees were to hire a teacher for the district.2

The situation changed in 1829, when Congress agreed to permit the sale of section 16 lands. For the first time, the county commissioners' court could appoint a commissioner and agent for the county school lands. This position was the predecessor of the regional superintendent of schools. The commissioner was required to prepare a record of the school lands in the county. When nine-tenths of the voters in any township decided to sell their school lands, they were required to petition the commissioner in writing. In turn, he arranged the sale, and loaned the money from the sale back to the township.3

During the 1830's, minor changes were made in the school law. The percentage of voters required to sign a petition for sale of school lands was reduced and the county commissioners' court again appointed township school trustees. Most important, in 1837 the citizens of a township were given the choice of incorporating for the purpose of establishing and supporting common schools. The trustees were assigned the superintendence of the township schools, and they could appoint a clerk, who would also act as treasurer.

The school land commissioner was required to pay to this treasurer all of the money in his care which belonged to the township, and would deliver to him all bonds, notes, and mortgages. The township treasurer made an abstract, in return, which showed the name of each teacher, the number of scholars at each school, and the total number of days taught. The treasurer was to deliver this abstract to the school land commissioner and receive the interest due the township from the state's school, college, and seminary lands.4

In 1841, the office of school commissioner became elective, for a term of two years. This same year, each school district was required to elect a board of three school directors, also for two-year terms. The school directors were empowered to select building sites, build schools, employ teachers, and visit the district schools. In townships which had not chosen to incorporate, the trustees of school lands could appoint school directors if none were elected.5

The school law was under continual revision during the 1840's, and in 1845 the school commissioner was made ex officio county superintendent of the common schools. His duties included visiting the schools, examining teachers, and issuing certificates.6 By 1865, each county elected a superintendent of schools every four years. Township school trustees reported to this superintendent on the number of schools, the number of scholars, the number of male and female teachers, the compensation of teachers, the number of persons under age 21 in the township, the principal and interest of the township fund, the amount of the common school fund received by the treasurer, the amount raised by taxation, all other receipts and expenditures, and any other information required by the superintendent.7

The primary duties of the present superintendent of an educational service region remain much the same as they were in the nineteenth century. The superintendent conducts teachers' institutes, handles the school lands, visits the schools, examines the accounts of all school treasurers in the county, and distributes state money for education to the school districts in his charge.8

Record Descriptions

1L. 1819, pp. 107-109.
2L. 1827, pp. 366-370.
3L. 1829, pp. 150-154.
4L. 1831, pp. 172-176; L. 1837, pp. 314-320.
5L. 1841, pp. 259-287.
6L. 1845, pp. 51-74.
7L. 1857, pp. 259-298; L. 1865, p. 112.
8PA 76-735.