What Were Schools Like in the 1930s?

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Like most everything else at that time, schools in the 1930s were affected by the Great Depression. Schools in rural areas tended to be smaller and were more affected by budget cuts. City schools fared better and were more like modern schools.

Rural schools during the 1930s typically had one room, and students from all grade levels were taught by the same teacher. Schools located in cities often had more classrooms, and students in different grade levels were separated and taught by different teachers. Subjects such as reading, writing, math, science and home economics were taught in many schools during this time.

During the Great Depression, some public schools were also segregated. Throughout the 1930s, 18 states had laws allowing segregation. It was not until after the 1954 ruling of Brown v. Board of Education that segregation in both public and private schools became illegal.

The Great Depression caused some families to be unable to pay taxes. With decreased tax revenue, some states were unable to fund public schools. For states facing a budget crisis, one of the options was to shorten the school year, which resulted in teacher salaries being cut. A five-month school year became increasingly common during the 1930s. Some families were also unable to pay for school supplies – such as textbooks – that not all states provided for students. Consequently, some children were unable to attend school throughout the 1930s.