During the nineteenth century, state controlled systems of popular education were established throughout Europe. In Sweden, this development was marked by the Elementary School Act of 1842. Through this act, the State turned parishes into school districts, and required every parish to establish an elementary school (folkskola) within five years. These schools would be administered by a school board, chaired by the vicar.
In order to enhance the quality of schooling, the Swedish State took measures. Through decrees, regulations and the renewed elementary school acts of 1882 and 1897, the State’s demands on the school districts were heightened. The State’s control over the Swedish elementary school system was tightened establishing a system of State inspectors following the decree of 1861, and in order to reward ambitious school districts, and support the poor ones, State grants were implemented in 1844 and reformed several times during the remainder of the century. This paper deals with these government grants, 1844-1900.
Firstly, this paper addresses questions regarding the development of these state grants. How did the state’s investments through government grants change during the period? To what extent can one speak of an increasing state control over school districts' finances? Secondly, it deals with the consequences of these changes. For example, the State grants were raised in order to increase the quality of schooling, but what intended or unintended strategic behaviour did such measures result in? Did the raised State grants result in more schools, higher teacher salaries, longer semesters, or did it just make it possible for the school districts to lower their local taxes? Thirdly, this paper will examine how the conditions of the school districts affected the consequences of the State’s measures. Which school districts benefitted most from raised State grants, and changes in the conditions of funding?
Using national statistical material, and sources from local school districts, this paper contributes to the literature on the history of social spending on public schooling, and state’s role in the emerging systems of mass education.