Monday, September 7, 2015
Happy Labor Day from all of us here at Long Island Teachers.
Not too long ago, public education did not exist; in fact an education was only accessible to the wealthy. Children of the working poor toiled in factories and not in school houses. Unions at the turn of the century established Child Labor laws and instituted the public education system. Unions pushed for public works projects to build public schools. Many of these schools are still in use today.
By knowing our Labor Day history it reaffirms our commitment to our children and our schools and to all working people;
Child Labor Laws & Public Education
Since as early as 1832, organized workers have been fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable among us, our children. In 1836, unions proposed a minimum age for workers at the National Trades Union convention, and Massachusetts passed the first state law to limit factory work for children under 15 by requiring them to go to school for at least 3 ½ months. Massachusetts also became the first state to pass a compulsory schooling law in 1852, requiring all cities and towns to offer primary education and all parents to send their children. And the first national teachers association in the U.S. was founded in 1857 by 43 Philadelphia-based educators for the purposes of raising teacher salaries and abolishing child labor.
Despite the benefits of compulsory education back then, such as preventing child labor and assimilating massive waves of immigrant children, enforcement of these state laws remained weak for decades. The first federal law to prevent child labor didn't come until 1916, but the courts declared it unconstitutional. It would take another 22 years before FDR signed the Fair Labor Standards Act — a bill that unions had spent decades fighting for. Public school attendance has increased immensely through the second half of the twentieth century and early 2000s, thanks to stricter laws and the successes of the U.S. education system.
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