By the mid-nineteenth century, public schools were seen as a basic governmental responsibility. The Kansas-Nebraska Act, for example, reserved sections 16 and 36 of each township to finance schools. [Landrum, School Fund, 197] The Bogus Legislature established an independent common school system on the Missouri model, stating in Chapter 144 of the Statutes:

"There shall be established a common school, or schools, in each of the counties of this Territory, which shall be open and free to every class of white citizens between the ages of five and twenty-one years, provided that persons over the age of twenty-one years may be admitted into such schools on such terms as the Trustees of such district may direct." [Cutler, History, Era of Peace, 266]

Lanesfield School, 1869
Johnson County Museum, Edgerton, Kansas

Each county tribunal (board of commissioners) was responsible for establishing school districts. The county tribunal was to call a citizen meeting to determine boundaries of a school district, select a school house site, devise a method of raising financial support, and do anything else needed. After establishment, the operation of a school district was to be under the supervision of four officers--three trustees and an inspector--who were to be elected by the citizens of the district. Persons interested in teaching were to be examined by the inspector and those who were then certified were to be eligible for employment. To help in the collection of the warrants for school purposes, the board was to hire a collector. [Stern and Wagner, First Decade, 39]

The territorial government required only an annual report from each district on the number of white children residing in the district, the number taught during the year, the length of time taught, the total amount paid in teachers' wages and what proportion of it was public money, and any other information needed by the secretary for a report to the legislature. The second session of the Bogus Legislature, meeting at Lecompton in 1857, added an intermediate level with each district reporting to the county clerk, who would compile a county-wide report to the county tribunal and the Territorial Secretary. Local responsibility for schools was maintained. [Stern and Wagner, First Decade, loc. cit.]

In "Bleeding Kansas" where the general turmoil made tax collection difficult and political rancor kept the counties from acting, few schools were actually established. A school was started in Leavenworth City in May 1855, followed by Leavenworth County's first school in May 1856. The first Topeka City school opened in January 1855, and several more followed in Shawnee County in 1855. A Lawrence school opened in 1855 and in 1857, Wabaunsee County started a school. However, these schools were private or "select" schools, not the common schools contemplated by the Legislature. Not until the capture of the Legislature by free-state members in 1858 did organized school districts come into being under a greatly modified law. By the end of 1859 there were 222 organized school districts in Kansas; in 1860 there were 480, and by 1908 there were 8,689. [King, Kansas School System, 425ff]

Higher education was also on the legislators' minds. State universities were then commonplace in the South and West. The University of Missouri was chartered in 1839. Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and a number of other states had state universities. The Bogus Legislature chartered a University of the Territory of Kansas to be located in the town of Douglas, for the "promotion of literature and of the arts and sciences." Twenty curators were named (many of them Bogus legislators) who could accept private donations and funding from sale of federal lands. The University was never started. [Griffin, The University of Kansas, 3,4]

During territorial days between 1855 to 1860 eighteen universities and ten colleges were charted by the pro-slavery and free-state legislatures. Only three, the University of Kansas, Kansas State and Emporia State survived, but dozens of other schools were begun, including forty denominational colleges. [King, Kansas School System, 444]

Charles Clark