Moments in Kentucky
Legislative History

Presented by the Kentucky Historical Society

First Public Education System

The Kentucky General Assembly passed an act, approved on February 16, 1838, to create the state’s first system of free public education. It provided for a state superintendent of public instruction, a state board of education, and county boards of education. The county school boards were then to appoint five trustees to run each school district in the county. The act also contained an unusual provision allowing single women or widows who owned property subject to taxation for school purposes to vote in school elections. This was one of the first instances of any type of woman suffrage in the United States. However, adequate funding was not provided in the act, so it was not until 1888 with passage of the Common School Law that a truly statewide system could develop.

Bunker Hill School in Ohio County

Class in front of Bunker Hill School in Ohio County, November 5, 1909. Photo by Schroeter, contributed to An Ohio River Portrait Collection by Carmen Kittinger. KHS Collections.

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