Scope and Content
Related Material at the California State Archives
Title: Department of Education Records
Department of Education
Extent: 110 boxes
California State Archives
For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact the California State Archives. Permission for reproduction or publication
is given on behalf of the California State Archives as the owner of the physical items. The researcher assumes all responsibility
for possible infringement which may arise from reproduction or publication of materials from the California State Archives
[Identification of item], Department of Education Records, F[number]:[folder number], California State Archives, Secretary
of State Office, Sacramento, California.
California's 1849 Constitution provided for the election of a state Superintendent of Public Instruction and for a system
of common schools. Supervision of California's educational system was carried out by the State Board of Education with the
Superintendent of Public Instruction acting as its executive officer. The first foundations of a State Department of Education
were laid in 1913 when the Legislature provided for the appointment of three commissioners (in elementary, secondary, and
vocational education) to assist the Superintendent (
Stats. 1913, ch. 694). An official Department of Education was created by law in 1921 succeeding to the powers and duties of the
State Board of Education (
Stats. 1921, ch. 605). The State Board continued on as a governing body with the Superintendent acting as Director of Education.
Initially the Department included Divisions of Elementary Schools, Secondary Schools, Physical Education, Normal and Special
Schools, Immigrant Education, Statistics, Credentials, Attendance, and a Legal Division.
As a result of two studies commissioned by the Legislature, the Mills Report of 1944 and the Strayer Report of 1945, the Department
carried out a major reorganization consolidating twenty-two divisions into six: Divisions of Departmental Administration,
Special Schools and Services, Instruction, Libraries, Public School Administration, and State Colleges and Teacher Education.
The Department's activities greatly expanded as federal appropriations increased with the passage of the National Defense
Education Act of 1958 and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The California State Legislature appropriated
more funds for new education programs with the Miller-Unruh Basic Reading Act of 1965, the McAteer Act of 1963, S.B. 1302
of 1972 (early childhood education), and the Bilingual Education Act of 1972.
In 1972 the Department attempted an innovative reorganization, the Education Program Matrix, to improve service to local education
agencies, to coordinate the Department's various educational programs, and to improve departmental communications. (See EDUCATION
PROGRAM MATRIX.) The Matrix was dissolved in 1975 and replaced by Education Program Management.
Scope and Content
The first California State Constitution required the State Legislature to provide for the election of a Superintendent of
Public Instruction by the people (
Const. 1849, Art. IX, Sec. I). In 1851 the Legislature passed a law which provided for the Superintendent's election and which described
his powers and duties (
Stats. 1851, ch. 126). In 1852 the Superintendent was designated a member of the State Board of Education to act as the Board's secretary
and executive officer (
Stats. 1852, ch. 53). The law creating the State Department of Education included a section to make the Superintendent of Public
Instruction the Director of Education and vested in him all the executive and administrative functions of the Department.
In addition to his duties in connection with the State Board and the State Department, the Superintendent also serves as an
ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees of the California State Colleges and Universities, and of the Regents of the University
of California. He also serves as an ex-officio member and advisor on educational matters to various boards, commissions, and
councils, e.g., the California Commission on the Status of Women, the State Teacher's Retirement Boards, and the Board of
Governors of the California Maritime Academy.
The records include the administrations of Vierling Kersey (1929-37), Walter Dexter (1937-45), Roy Simpson (1945-63), Max
Rafferty (1963-70), and Wilson Riles (1971-82).
Vierling Kersey was an appointee to the vacant office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction by Governor Young. Assuming
office on Feb. 11, 1929, Kersey was re-elected in 1930 and 1934, but in turn resigned in 1935 to become County Superintendent
of Schools in Los Angeles County. A native of Los Angeles, Kersey graduated from Los Angeles Normal School (later known as
the University of California at Los Angeles), later receiving a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Southern California.
From teaching, holding principalships and directorships of Continuation Education in various schools, he advanced to the State
Governor Frank Merriam appointed Walter F. Dexter in 1937 to replace Kersey. Re-elected in 1938 and 1942, Dexter died in office
on October 21, 1945. Born in Chicago, Dexter as a child moved with his parents to a farm in Iowa. With a B.A. from Penn College
and an M.A. from Columbia University, he then earned a masters and a doctorate in education at Harvard. After teaching a few
years at Earlham College, Franklin College, and the University of Virginia, Dexter came to California as president of Whittier
College and served in that capacity for eleven years. At the time of his appointment as Superintendent of Public Instruction,
he was Governor Merriam's executive secretary.
On November 6, 1945, Governor Earl Warren appointed Roy Simpson as Dexter's successor. Re-elected every four years until his
retirement in 1963, Simpson holds the record for the longest tenure as Superintendent. Simpson was born in Santa Rosa, California
in 1893. After graduating from Claremont College, he served as a sargeant in the U.S. Army from 1917 to 1919. On his return
from the service, he held positions as a teacher, principal, district superintendent, and city superintendent before his appointment
by Governor Warren.
Max Rafferty was elected Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1962 and was re-elected in 1966. Born in New Orleans in 1917,
he moved to California in 1931. After graduation from Beverly Hills High School, he attended the University of California
at Los Angeles where he received his B.A. in 1938. He served as a public school teacher, vice-pricipal, principal, and district
superintendent before his election to state office. He also earned two graduate degrees: an M.A. from U.C.L.A. and a doctorate
from U.S.C. Dr. Rafferty was defeated for re-election by Wilson Riles in 1970.
Wilson Riles was elected in 1970 and re-elected in 1974 and 1978. Riles was born near Alexandria, Louisiana in 1917. Moving
with his foster parents to Arizona in 1936, he entered Arizona State University in Flagstaff where he received his B.A. in
1940. After teaching for three years and serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps for two years, Riles re-entered college earning
an M.A. in school administration. He taught and was a school administrator before coming to California in 1954 as a Regional
Secretary of Fellowship of Reconciliation, a religious organization. Riles joined the Department of Education in 1958 as an
educational consultant. In 1965 he was appointed as Associate Superintendent in charge of the Compensatory Education and in
1969 he advanced to Deputy Superintendent. Wilson Riles was defeated in his bid for re-election by L. Bill Honig in 1982.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
California. Dept. of Education
Education policy and development
Educational administration and organization
Related Material at the California State Archives
Board of Education Records