THE KALAMAZOO CASE
In 1875 a lawsuit was filed in Kalamazoo, Michigan, to collect public funds for the support of a village high school. The town had used taxes to support the school for thirteen years without complaints from the citizens. The defendants in the case, the school officials, felt that a select few out of thousands need not dispute their obligation to pay taxes for the purpose of supporting a high school.
The school officials supported their case with many previous court cases which upheld their position of financial support. They found that the state constitution, at this time, did not have provisions prohibiting the use of tax funds for a publicly supported high school.
The first precedent that was sited in the case was the Code of 1827. This outlined the curriculum as follows:
1. Every township in the Michigan territory that had families must have a schoolmaster "of good morals, to teach children to read and write, and to instruct them in the English or French language, as well as in arithmetic, orthography, and decent behavior... equivalent to six months for one school in each year." 2. All townships that had one hundred families must have a schoolmaster for twelve months for one school in a year with the above curriculum requirements. 3. Townships that had two hundred families or more were given a "grammar schoolmaster, of good morals, well instructed in Latin, French and English languages," as well as a schoolmaster to teach the curriculum requirements listed in the first paragraph.The townships were required by the law to maintain the schools under threat of a large penalty for non-compliance. The Kalamazoo Case used this Code of 1827 establish the precedent of tax supported schools.
They furthered their stance using the papers from the Constitutional Convention of 1850. The people of the Convention declared the necessity for the establishment of a University. The only way to further education beyond grammar school, if high schools were no longer funded, was to travel to a private school. This would limit the educational opportunities to those boys that had money to pay for their education. The lawyers for the Kalamazoo Case defendants inferred that there must be a provision for the public funding of high schools for college prepatory education.
These cases with many smaller precedents were used to establish a basis for the public funding of the Kalamazoo High School and allowed for many townships to follow their historic leadership.
Transcripts from the Kalamazoo court case.
Prepared by Sarah Wright