Public schools in the United States
In 1647, Massachusetts Puritans enacted the first colony-wide law establishing public schools in the English-speaking world to block the attempts by "ould deluder Satan to keepe men from the whole knowledge of the Scriptures." Each settlement larger than 50 families was required to pay a schoolmaster to teach reading, writing and religious doctrine to the children in the community. Beginning in 1670, Massachusetts provided tax funding for school maintenance. This model was then copied throughout the colonies, and even throughout the world.
Many children did not attend public school for the first two centuries. It was not until 1852 that Massachusetts became the first state to require attendance by students aged 6 through 16, and it was not until 1918 that all states had compulsory attendance laws. High schools did not generally exist until after the Civil War, and kindergarten did not exist until it was created in St. Louis in 1873.
- Family Encyclopedia of American History (Reader's Digest 1975)