Date of Award
School of Teacher Education and Leadership
Richard P. West
School trust lands are an enormous, yet often overlooked resource for public education. In some states, they have the potential to fund public education in an entirely tax-free manner, and they contribute tax-free funding for schools in many states. Before the Constitution of the United States was written, Congress established a system for granting lands to support common schools. However, there is a gap in the scholarly discourse about this legacy. Souder and Fairfax (1996) noted in their comprehensive work on school trust lands that “other than noting the initial grant to Ohio, most texts ignore the remaining details surrounding school trust lands.” Few know that 134 million acres were eventually granted for the benefit of public schools. Perhaps even fewer know that only one third (42 million acres) of the original lands are still held in trust for schools. The other two-thirds of school trust lands were either sold off or are caught up in legal proceedings, making them unavailable to produce revenue for schools. As acres of school trust lands are sold off instead of leased, school trust resources deteriorate. Unfortunately, many of the factors that have contributed to the loss of school trust lands in some states are threatening school trust resources in states that have not yet lost their school trust lands.
This paper defines school trust resources as any lands, products derived from lands, or funds derived from the use of lands granted for educational purposes. School trust lands is a term that refers to lands dedicated by the United States Congress, or in rare cases by state governments, for the support of public schools. These lands are often referred to in law and research literature as school lands or sixteenth section lands (referring to the surveyed section that was set aside in every township). Permanent school funds is a term that refers to funds derived from the sale, lease, or rent of school trust lands or the sale of products derived from these lands. In general, each state has one permanent school fund and states use a variety of official titles for their permanent school funds.
Maynes, John Morgan, "Alabama and Mississippi: A Case Study in School Trust Land Management" (2015). Undergraduate Honors Capstone Projects. 216.
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