Preliminary Guide to Environmental Sources
Current Functions. The State Education Department is responsible for general supervision of all educational institutions in the State, for operating certain educational and cultural institutions, and for certifying teachers and certifying or licensing practitioners of 31 professions. The department's supervisory activities include chartering all educational institutions in the State, including schools, libraries, and historical societies; developing and approving school curricula; accrediting college and university programs; allocating State and federal financial aid to schools; and providing and coordinating vocational rehabilitation services. In addition, the commissioner exercises a quasi-judicial authority to review, upon appeal, the actions of any local school official or board. The department operates the New York State School for the Blind at Batavia and the New York State School for the Deaf at Rome. The Office of Cultural Education includes the State Museum and Science Service, State Library, State Archives and Records Administration, and the Public Broadcasting Program, which maintain scientific and cultural research collections and provide services to State government and the public.
Organizational History. New York State's education system has antecedents in both English and Dutch colonial education. The Dutch, concerned with providing widespread general education, established tax-supported common schools under church and state control in most of New Netherland's communities. Under the English, who established a system of private or church-supported academies, emphasis was placed on advanced education of the elite, and the common school system of the Dutch all but disappeared. In 1754 the first college in the colony, King's College, was founded in New York City under a royal charter and was ruled by a board of governors designated by the colonial government.
In 1784 (Chapter 51) the legislature enacted the first education bill in the State's history, creating the Board of Regents of The University of the State of New York to act as governing body of King's College, which was renamed Columbia College. This board was also authorized to found and endow additional colleges in the State. This act designated the governor, lieutenant governor, president of the senate, speaker of the assembly, mayors of Albany and New York, attorney general, secretary of state, and twenty-four other persons as the Board of Regents. Three years later (Laws of 1787, Chapter 82), board membership was changed to the governor, lieutenant governor, and nineteen members appointed by the legislature, and the functions of the Board were significantly altered. Relieved of direct operating responsibility for Columbia College, the board was authorized to charter new colleges and to exercise general supervision over Columbia and any new colleges. At the same time the board was charged with supervision of all academies, authorized to charter new ones, and empowered to make monetary grants to colleges and academies.
During its first year of operation, the reorganized Board of Regents recommended State support for public schools. However, no action was taken until 1795 (Chapter 75), when the legislature appropriated $100,000 a year for each of the next five years to encourage the establishment of common schools under the supervision of town commissioners.
Further action to encourage public education was taken in 1805 (Chapter 66) when the comptroller was authorized to sell certain State lands and use the proceeds to establish a "permanent fund for the support of public schools." In 1812 (Chapter 242), the Common School Act provided the basis for a statewide system of public elementary schools. The act created a superintendent of common schools, appointed by the Council of Appointment, to "prepare plans for the improvement and management of the common school fund, and for the better organization of common schools."
The office of superintendent was abolished in 1821 (Chapter 240) and its duties transferred to the secretary of state, who served ex officio as superintendent of common schools. The following year (Chapter 256) the ex officio superintendent was given the authority to hear and decide appeals from the decisions of local school officials and boards. In 1854 (Chapter 97) the superintendent's responsibilities were transferred to a newly created Department of Public Instruction under a superintendent of public instruction who was elected by the legislature and also served as an ex officio regent. This department exercised steadily increasing advisory and supervisory powers over public elementary schools and teacher-training programs while the Board of Regents continued general control of colleges and universities and private academies. Meanwhile, the Union Free School Act of 1853 (Chapter 433) permitted common school districts to consolidate for the purpose of organizing tax-supported public schools. These union free school districts could include "academical departments" for secondary-level instruction. The superintendent of public instruction supervised these new union free schools, but there was overlap with the authority of the Regents because the 1853 law provided that all "academical departments" established in union free schools were subject to the supervision of the Board of Regents.
The State's educational system, which had expanded rapidly in the second half of the 19th century, was given a constitutional foundation in 1894. Article IX of the new constitution stipulated that "the Legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools, wherein all of the children of this state may be educated," and it also provided for the continuation of the Board of Regents of The University of the State of New York, with powers to be defined by the legislature.
Dual administrative responsibility for education continued until enactment of the so-called Unification Act of 1904 (Chapter 40). This law abolished the Department of Public Instruction and created the State Education Department, headed by a commissioner who was also the chief executive officer of the Board of Regents. The first commissioner was elected by the legislature for a six-year term, and thereafter the commissioner was selected by the Board of Regents. Although the language of the Unification Act left some doubt as to the relationship between the Board of Regents and the commissioner, actual practice followed the intent of the law to establish the Board of Regents as a policy-making body and the commissioner as chief administrative officer. The State Education Department was continued after the constitutional reorganization of State government in 1925-26. A constitutional amendment in 1925 clarified the role of the commissioner as chief administrative officer of the department serving at the pleasure of the Board of Regents.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries the Board of Regents was given responsibility for several cultural and scientific activities. In 1844 (Chapter 255) the New York State Library, created in 1818 (Chapter 276), was placed under control of the Regents, and in 1889 (Chapter 529) the Regents were empowered to charter local libraries and museums. The scientific collections of the New York State Geological and Natural History Survey, established in 1836 (Chapter 142), were placed under the Regents in 1845 (Chapter 179) and known as the State Cabinet of Natural History. Several later laws added or removed the work of various State scientists to the purview of the Regents until the Unification Act of 1904 finally brought them all together in the New York State Museum under the Regents. The state historian, whose position was first created in 1895 (Chapter 393) as a gubernatorial appointee in the Executive Department charged with publishing public records, was placed in the Education Department in 1911 (Chapter 380). At the same time, the department was given responsibility for supervising the condition of public records in local government offices. In 1971 (Chapter 869) a State Archives was created in the department as the official repository for historically valuable State government records and to continue the State's responsibilities relating to local government records. The State's records management program was transferred to the Education Department from the Office of General Services in 1987 (Chapter 42) and combined with the Archives to form the State Archives and Records Administration.
Beginning with the Medical Board in 1872, a number of newly created and existing professional examining boards were placed under the supervision of the Board of Regents. These boards now issue licenses or certificates and discipline practitioners in the following professions: architecture, certified shorthand reporting, chiropractics, dentistry, engineering, land surveying, landscape architecture, massage, medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, ophthalmic dispensing, optometry, pharmacy, physical therapy, podiatry, psychology, public accountancy, social work, speech-language pathology and audiology, and veterinary medicine.
The State Education Department is governed by a Board of Regents consisting of sixteen members elected by the legislature. The board is also head of The University of the State of New York (different from the State University of New York, under a separate heading in this guide) consisting of all public and private schools, colleges and universities, and chartered libraries, museums, historical societies, and other educational institutions in the State. The department's chief executive officer is the commissioner of education and president of the university, who is appointed by the Board of Regents.
STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT
Office of Cultural Education
|- New York State Museum|
|-- Assistant Commissioner/Director|
|11843||Assistant commissioner's correspondence and subject
files, 1954-1968, bulk 1962-1968.
36 cu. ft.
|-- Other Records|
|B1523||Memorandum on conservation planning, ca. 1957-1967.
.2 cu. ft. (3 items)