House Concurrent Resolution No. 48,
Education was a major focus of Governor Jester's administration. In 1947, the Legislature deadlocked over the question of establishing minimum salaries for public school teachers. Both Jester and the Legislature recognized that reform of the Texas educational system was long overdue. In the wake of the deadlock, the Legislature established the Gilmer-Aiken Committee, named for Representative Claud Gilmer and Senator A.M. Aiken, Jr., to study educational reform.
Throughout the 19th century, Texas had little in the way of an education system. While the state provided some funding from the sale of public lands, schooling was for the most part a local affair, with little consistency in the length of the school year, teacher qualifications, or curriculum. As the 20th century began, most Texas children still lived in the country and attended one-room schoolhouses with one teacher for all grade levels. Beginning in the 1920s, increasing numbers of Texans began to point out the inequalities in funding and facilities between schools in prosperous areas of the state and those in poor areas. The first lawsuits against the racial segregation that prevailed across the state were filed by Mexican Americans in the 1930s, with African Americans joining the fight in the 1940s. During World War II, many Texas soldiers leaving home for the first time would recall their embarrassment when they discovered the inadequacy of their education.
The Gilmer-Aiken committee was an effort to raise the standards for Texas schools and to eliminate inequalities. The committee's work proved to be one of the most important initiatives ever undertaken on behalf of Texas education. Using a broad base of advisory and county committees to build grassroots support, the committee's work led to three bills in the 1949 legislative session that restructured the school system. The provisions of the new laws were many. School districts were consolidated, from 4500 to 2900. The state provided for funding to equalize opportunity between prosperous and poor districts, and made the funding contingent on attendance, in order to give districts an incentive to enforce attendance laws. Teacher salaries were raised and school staffs supplemented by education specialists. An elected State Board of Education was created along with the staff to support them (now the Texas Education Agency). Finally, the new law guaranteed all Texas children the opportunity to attend public school for twelve school years of nine months, with a minimum of 175 days of instruction.
With modifications, the Texas public school system still operates within the framework set down by the Gilmer-Aiken laws.
House Concurrent Resolution No. 48, August, 1947, Records of Beauford H. Jester, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.