Iowa has a very large number of small rural school districts. Of the 4,870 school corporations in the state, 2,807 are rural independent districts and 1,010 are school townships. There are in the state 12,279 public schools of all types, including kindergartens, rural schools, elementary schools (not rural) and high schools. Of this number, 9,223, or about 75 percent, are one-room rural schools. With one exception the number of such schools in Iowa exceeds that found in any other state.
The average enrollment in the one-room rural schools of the state in 1932-33 was only 15.8 students; the average daily attendance was 12.6. These ungraded rural schools of the state enrolled 29 percent of the entire number of pupils but employed 38 percent of the teachers. The first class cities, on the other hand, enrolled 23 percent of the pupils of the state but employed only 16 percent of the teachers. The town and consolidated schools, as a rule, also have small total enrollments and small enrollments per teacher.
Before the depression the average salary of teachers of one-room rural schools in Iowa was $722 per year, while that of city elementary teachers was $1,573 per year. When the depression brought a demand for reducing expenses, the rural teacher's wage was cut approximately 35 percent, to $465 per year, and the city elementary teacher's wage was reduced 19 percent, to $1,271 per year.
From the foregoing it follows that rural people, in general, may have only teachers of inferior training for their children. Yet, in many instances, the per-pupil cost of such instruction is actually higher than that in the elementary grades of city schools; and it appears, on the whole, that there is no great difference in the per-pupil cost of elementary instruction in the two types of schools.
This condition clearly reveals the handicap which children face who are born and reared in the country. Moreover a disadvantage also seems to have fallen upon their parents, whose per capita income, even in normal times, is apparently not more than half of that of the non-farm population. Not only must they accept inferior educational opportunities for their children, but they must pay for such facilities a sum more than twice as much, in relation to their incomes, as that paid by people not living in the country.
So far no satisfactory solution has been suggested for the problem of how to provide education for rural children that is equal in quality to that which is generally available to the non-farm children of Iowa. Yet with the establishment of the many graded school systems during the past 3 or 4 decades, and with the more recent improvement of the roads of the state, it has seemed that an acceptable solution was gradually becoming possible. In fact, for some time there has been reason to believe that not nearly all of the one-room schools being maintained in Iowa are really needed; many children attending a considerable number of them apparently could be transported to nearby graded school systems and educated at a total cost actually no greater than that being paid at present, provided the patrons of such one-room schools desired to do so.
lf arrangements could be made, therefore, whereby the rural and non-rural children of Iowa would attend the same schools they would enjoy more nearly equal educational advantages and opportunities. To remove the present educational handicap of all rural children of Iowa in this manner, however, would entail a considerable increase in educational costs.1 For how many of them it might be removed without additional cost has been determined for a considerable part of the state in connection with an investigation, the results of which are reported in the following pages.
Nothing presented in this bulletin, however, suggests any changes in the existing school systems, other than those which would and could at present be taken purely upon local initiative.
Morgan, Barton and Lancelot, W. H.
"A possible intermediate step in the reorganization of rural elementary education in Iowa,"
Research Bulletin (Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station): Vol. 17
, Article 1.
Available at: https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/researchbulletin/vol17/iss200/1