PSEA: A Timeline

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PSEA: A Timeline

The Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA) was formed in 1852 by a group of school teachers who recognized the need to communicate and coordinate with each other. Those founding “schoolmen” gathered together at a convention in Harrisburg on Dec. 28, 1852, and from that meeting, the organization we know as PSEA today was born.

Those early pioneers were driven by a desire for knowledge of best teaching practices, the instinct to share information and techniques, the desire to convert teaching from a transient job to a true profession, and the understanding that engaging in politics was necessary for success.

Today, as the largest education employee organization in the state, PSEA continues to play a crucial role in preserving public education — the cornerstone of the commonwealth’s past and future.

This timeline provides a look at education history and the role PSEA has played in making it.

Before PSEA

1682 – William Penn provides for schools in his colony.

1683 – Provincial Council employs Enoch Flower as first teacher in Philadelphia.

1731 – First public library opens in Philadelphia.

1755 – First college is established in Pennsylvania.

1789-90 – Second Pennsylvania Constitution provides for public schools.

1834 – The Free Public Schools Act creates a general state system of common schools.

1835 – Thaddeus Stevens delivers his address on Free Schools vs. Charity Pauper Schools before the Pennsylvania Legislature.

1837 – First high school established in Philadelphia.

1848 – First teacher institute held in Warren County.

The Early Years of PSEA


1852 – Pennsylvania State Teachers Association (PSTA) is founded. Thomas H. Burrowes is elected president.

1853 – First meeting of Pennsylvania State Teachers Association held.

1854 – Position of county superintendent established.

1857 – Law is enacted authorizing a system of state normal schools (teacher colleges).

1857 – National Teachers Association (NTA) is formed in Philadelphia. Ten state teacher associations, including PSTA, unite to create a parent organization to promote public education.

1863 – “The Teachers Regiment,’’ the 151st Pennsylvania Volunteers, helps hold Cemetery Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg.

1865 – Orphans of Civil War soldiers guaranteed education and care until they are 16 years old.

1870 – NTA becomes the National Educational Association.

1895 – Compulsory school attendance law is passed. Children between the ages of 8-13 years are required to attend school for 16 consecutive weeks.

1896 – Plessy v. Ferguson upholds legal segregation of public schools.

Early 20th Century

1900 – Pennsylvania State Teachers Association changes name to Pennsylvania State Educational Association.

1903 – Pennsylvania adopts first minimum salary law, setting the rate at $35 per month.

1906 – NEA drops the “al’ and becomes the National Education Association.

1909 – Nation’s first tenure law enacted.

1911 – Pennsylvania School Code is written.

1914 – First rural community vocational school opens in Indiana County.

1915 – First junior high school opens in Pittsburgh.

1917 – Public School Employees Retirement Bill provides that employees can apply for retirement at age 62, with retirement compulsory at age 70.

1919 – Woodruff Salary Act is passed giving higher pay to teachers in all Pennsylvania school districts and establishes a minimum salary of $65 a month for teachers.

1919 – State aid for the transportation of pupils is adopted, mandating that the state pay 50 percent of the transportation cost to consolidated schools.

1920 – PSEA drops the “al’’ and becomes the Pennsylvania State Education Association.

1921 – Legislature creates State Council of Education, combining functions of State Board of Education and the College and University Council.

1921 – Edmonds Act requires all elementary public school teachers to have two years training in normal schools and secondary teachers must have an A.B. degree.

1921 – First PSEA headquarters established at 10 S. Market Square, Harrisburg.

1925-27 – PSEA acquires properties for headquarters at 400, 402, and 404 N. Third St., Harrisburg.

Mid-20th Century

1937 – Act 52 gives tenure to teachers and corrects unjust and unethical dismissal procedures.

1941 – Legislation approved guaranteeing that contract and seniority rights are protected for school employees who volunteer for or are called to military service.

1941 – Act 282 sets a 180-day school year in Pennsylvania.

1945 – House Bill 568 provides for the increase and equalization of teacher salaries.

1947 – PSEA and NEA collect money for overseas Teacher Relief Fund by asking each teacher to donate $1 to aid teachers in war-devastated countries.

1949 – Education bill increases the state-mandated teacher salary, re-codifies school laws and enacts a school safety law for school buses.

1952 – PSEA celebrates 100 years of service.

1954 – U.S. Supreme Court declares segregation unconstitutional in public schools in landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

1957 – PSEA purchased property at 406 N. Third St., Harrisburg, as part of its expansion project.

1958 – Congress passes national Defense Education Act, providing significant federal funds to improve science, math, and foreign language studies in public schools, in reaction to Sputnik space launch by Soviet Union.

1960s - A union is born


1960 – PSEA convention opens with cornerstone ceremony for new headquarters building at 400 N. Third St.

1961 – PSEA moves into new headquarters.

1962 – Engel v. Vitale case ruling means state can’t enforce prayer in public schools.

1963 – Legislation creates State Board of Education.

1965 – President Lyndon B. Johnson signs into law Elementary and Secondary Education Act, providing $1.2 billion for public schools.

1966 – NEA and American Teachers Association vote to merge.

1967 – Wade Wilson, an industrial arts instructor at Cheyney State College, becomes the first black PSEA President.

1968 – Twenty thousand Pennsylvania teachers march on the state Capitol on March 4 to demonstrate against inaction on salary and subsidy legislation for education.

1968 – PSEA’s Political Action Committee for Education (PACE) is formed.

1969 – Act 96 establishes in Pennsylvania the highest mandated minimum starting salary for beginning teachers in the nation.

1969 – First issue of Voice is published.

1970 – Act 195, the Public Employee Relations Act, repeals the anti-strike law of 1947.

A growing union


1970 – PSEA House of Delegates approves the UniServ (Unified Service) program. Plans include hiring 33 UniServs in 11 regions throughout Pennsylvania.

1972 – Federal court orders Pennsylvania to provide a free public education for all children with mental retardation aged 6 to 21.

1973 – Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules that school boards cannot order teachers to leave the classroom if they become pregnant.

1975 – Retired teachers get cost-of-living increases, and law provides early retirement at reduced penalty rates.

1975 – Gov. Milton Shapp signs legislation giving retired teachers cost-of-living increases and providing early retirement at reduced penalty rates.

1978 – Nancy Noonan is elected PSEA’s first full-time vice president.

1980 – NEA extends membership to education support professionals (ESPs).

1982 – Thousands of PSEA members gather for a rally at the state Capitol to show support for public education and to remind people to “Remember in November” when they vote.

1988 – PSEA extends membership to education support professionals (ESPs).

1989 – PSEA and AFSCME sign a “no raid’’ agreement.

1991 – Voucher initiative defeated when House votes to have Senate-passed bill stricken from record.

1992 – Act 88 brings new procedures to the bargaining process including restricting the length of strikes.

1995 – PSEA defeats legislation to implement tuition vouchers for private and religious schools. Gov. Tom Ridge blames the “teachers’ union” for the failure.

1995 – PSEA and the Pennsylvania Educational Support Personnel merge.

1995 – PSEA defeats pro-voucher legislation.

2000 – Education Empowerment Act signed into law.

21st Century

2001 - PSEA members rally in Harrisburg on March 4 for children and public education, and to reaffirm and re-establish PSEA's identity as a union.

2002 – No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) is enacted.

2002 – The Pennsylvania Legislature passes a state budget that increases basic education funding by $275 million – the largest dollar increase in at least two decades – and ensures that public education will remain a priority by locking funding targets into law.

2002 – PSEA celebrates 150 years of service.

2008 – The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) releases its Costing-Out Study.

2008 – The Pennsylvania Legislature passes another historic state budget, including legislation that enacted into law Gov. Ed Rendell's school funding formula to increase school funding in Pennsylvania by $2.6 billion over six years.

2009 – The U.S. federal government promises to increase school funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

2010 – PSEA observes the 50th anniversary of headquarters’ cornerstone.

2010 – PSEA releases groundbreaking research report, “The Power of a Great Education: PSEA’s 20/20 Vision for the Future."

2012 – PSEA forms Partners for Public Education to connect with Pennsylvanians who care about public education.

2014 – PSEA releases comprehensive set of education policy recommendations, “Solutions that Work."

2015 – The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) is enacted.