Page 55 - Education Programs
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                                           By Edward N. Thompson

                                                 Grand Lodge of Texas: March 2002

For many years, the Grand Lodge of Texas has celebrated Public Schools Week by pausing in
March of each year to pay tribute to the educational system of Texas. Yet the public and many
Masons know little about the role the Masonic fraternity has played in the development of free
public education in Texas. As the Masons of Texas once again mark this annual event, it is
appropriate that the contributions of Freemasonry to Texas public education be highlighted.

Attempts to establish a system of public education in Texas began as early as 1823. Stephen F.
Austin, a Mason, requested support from Mexico for a public school in his Texas colony. This
effort met with limited response and in 1832, Anglo-American settlers passed several resolutions
requesting that the government of the State of Coahuila and Texas set aside public lands for the
support of “dissemination of knowledge through every part.” This resolution met with some
success, yet no funding was permanently established for supporting public education when the
State Congress in 1833 made several provisions for education in Texas. Masons such as Austin,
William Wharton, and Ira Ingram were involved in these early attempts to establish public
education in Texas.

When Texas declared its independence on 2 March 1836, the signers of the Declaration of
Independence stated Mexico had “failed to establish any public system of education” although the
government had substantial resources to do so. They further said that “unless a people are educated
and enlightened, it is idle to expect that continuance of civil liberty, or the capacity of self-
government.” These same men went on to draft the constitution for the Republic of Texas, which
was adopted on 17 March 1836. One provision of this constitution made it a duty of Congress “to
provide by law a general system of education.” Many of the men involved in developing these
documents were Freemasons committed to the ideal of public education.

In December 1838, Mirabeau B. Lamar, a Mason, became president of the Republic of Texas and
distinguished himself as the “Father of Texas Education” for his support of a public school system.
In his first address to the Congress, he pleaded for the creation of a public school system in Texas.
He declared, “If we desire to establish a republican government upon a broad and permanent basis,
it will become our duty to adopt a comprehensive and well regulated system of mental and moral
culture.” He proposed the set aside of public lands for the creation of a permanent endowment to
support public education. His educational views met with the approval of Congress and provisions
were made for public education. Congress set aside three leagues (13,285 acres) of land in each
county to support primary schools and an additional fifty leagues (221,420 acres) to support two
colleges in 1839. In 1840, Congress set aside an additional league for the support of county
schools. In addition, they made provisions for the certification of teachers. Once again, many of
these legislators were Masons.

While these acts were important in the establishment of public education in Texas, the lasting
impact was in the creation of a permanent endowment for the support of public education that lives
to this day. Furthermore, Texas was the first state to give state aid to education. In 1854, the State
legislature established a permanent school fund and an available school fund to finance the
education of the youth of Texas. The “school lands” of Texas continue to provide revenue to the

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