A History of the Maryland State Teachers' Association
Ebersole, Benjamin Paul
Wiggin, Gladys A.
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In 1865 Maryland became the twenty-seventh state to officially inaugurate a state teachers' association. The same law which, in 1865, provided for the first bona fide state educational system placed school officials under legal obligation to aid in organizing and supporting teachers’ association. The Maryland State Teachers’ Association was meant to be an integral part of the educational plan. Sharing the same chronological time span and the same general purposes, the Association and the state educational system were closely related in their development. During the early years the Association was both helped and hindered by school legislation. From 1866 to 1868 it had the benefit of a progressive school law and an active state superintendent. From 1869 to 1899 the inadequate school law and the lack of a full time state superintendent limited the growth of Maryland education and of the Association. Although educational conditions were reviewed and instructional topics discussed, there was little reform. Social and recreational activities were prominent at the annual meetings. During most of the first half of the twentieth century, the Association remained a part time organization, not yet prepared to assume a leadership role among the educational forces in the state. From 1900 to 1920 was a period of reawakening in Maryland education, but the Association did not grasp this opportunity for leadership. Between 1920 and 1941 the Association democratized its business procedures, displayed more interest in the economic welfare of teachers, and supported the advances directed by the state superintendent of schools. Between 1942 and 1951 the Association evolved from an organization with serious limitations to one with a continuing program, a full time staff, a permanent headquarters building, a monthly periodical, and large-scale annual meetings. During the ten years from 1952 to 1962 the MSTA dealt actively with state and national educational problems. It became a chief voice and agent for the state’s educational interests and fought vigorously for what it considered essential to the advancement of education. In 1962 the Association included thirty-six local associations, forty departments, twenty-two committees, six professional staff employees, and 21,425 members. During its history the MSTA had two major purposes: (1) the perpetuation of tax-supported public education and (2) the improvement of the professional and economic status of teachers. To realize these goals, the Association worked closely with other interested groups, especially the state department of education and the parent-teacher organization, in the promotion of legislation improving the welfare of teachers and increasing the state’s financial responsibility for the school system. It followed the lead of the National Education Association in the matters of federal aid, professional negotiations, and teachers’ ethics. Through committee investigations, department discussions, professional staff studies, local associations’ activities, and annual meetings, the Association worked to enhance teacher preparation, improve instructional methods and content, enlighten teachers about school policies and political realities, and in general raise the esprit de corps of both lay and professional people involved or interested in public education. During its history the MSTA has successes and failures. Precisely to what extent it has been instrumental in the advancement of Maryland education is not subject to completely factual evaluation, but it is certain that Maryland education has benefited from the endeavors of the Maryland State Teachers’ Association.