The Better Schools Amendment to the Constitution of 1876 was passed by Texas voters in 1920. It removed limitations on tax rates allowable by local school districts for support of their public schools. The constitution designated local taxes, public lands, occupation taxes, and poll taxes as funding sources for Texas public schools. In 1908 voters approved a limit on the rate of local taxation, which educational leaders in 1920 considered an obstacle to progress. A vigorous campaign for the Better Schools Amendment was led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Annie Webb Blanton, who was assisted by such education advocates and leaders as Jane Y. McCallum, Alexander Caswell Ellis, Robert E. Vinson, Samuel Palmer Brooks, and Frederick Eby. The campaign was headquartered in Austin and patterned after the big war drives. It utilized county organizations, songs, slogans, posters, automobile stickers, and speaking tours. May 1, 1920, was designated "Tag Day" by campaign leaders, and more than $20,000 was raised as teachers, schools, colleges, parent-teacher groups, and businesses purchased tags to show support and help finance the amendment. The amendment, approved by the Thirty-sixth Legislature in 1919, was sent to voters for ratification on November 2, 1920. It was approved by a vote of 221,223 to 126,282.
Passage of the Better Schools Amendment was significant not only for its removal of local tax limitations but also for its effort at easing the state's burden of school financing by making it possible for local support to increase. Educators also hoped the amendment would increase equality in school conditions by opening an opportunity for each district to improve its facilities. The results of the amendment were mixed. According to Annie Blanton, it brought a 51 percent increase in local support for public schools before she left office in 1923. Some school personnel, however, were disappointed that many local districts moved slowly to increase taxation while continuing to rely on the state as their primary source of financing. The Better Schools Amendment, still part of the Texas Constitution, offered a mechanism for funding public education, along with additional taxes and the Permanent School Fund.
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Frederick Eby, The Development of Education in Texas (New York: Macmillan, 1925). Frederick Eby Papers, Texas Collection, Baylor University. Cecil Eugene Evans, The Story of Texas Schools (Austin: Steck, 1955). Texas Outlook, September 1920, January 1921. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (Annie Webb Blanton).
Laws, Legislation, and Law Schools
Texas in the 1920s
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Debbie Mauldin Cottrell,
“Better Schools Amendment,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 25, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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