Honoree

Paul R. Mort

AWARDS

Honorary Degree (1951)
LL.D.
Doctor of Laws
School of Education Building Dedication
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: Herman B Wells

BIOGRAPHY

Mort was born in 1894 in Elsie, Michigan. He completed a degree at Indiana University in 1916, and spent the next several years teaching in Indiana and in Arizona. In 1922, he entered Columbia University to earn a Masters degree. After graduation, he remained there, teaching education classes. From the 1920s to the 1950, he was well known as one of the principal experts on educational funding in the United States. As a result, he served on numerous commissions that sought ways to improve school funding. He was an outspoken critic of the states and federal governments for not enhancing funding for education.

During the U.S. Great Depression, the public school system in Ohio faced a financial crisis. School funding came through property taxes. As Ohio homeowners failed to pay property taxes, schools had less funding with which to work. To make matters worse, Ohio voters limited taxes on real estate to ten mills (the equivalent of one-hundredth of a dime or a tenth of a cent), which further reduced the funds available to public schools.

In 1932, the Ohio educational officials requested that Mort evaluate Ohio's school funding. Mort determined that a funding system which relied heavily on taxation did not guarantee all Ohio children a quality education. More affluent districts had higher real estate values than did others. Thus, schools in districts with higher property values, would receive more money per child than in less affluent areas. Mort was also openly critical of the Ohio system because school funding, for the most part, was up to local school boards. He called for increased state involvement in the funding of education.

To prevent a financial collapse of the Ohio public school system, the state legislature implemented the School Foundation Program Law in 1935, which strengthened and balanced educational funding in Ohio. Despite Mort's protests, the newly adopted system continued to rely on property taxes. However, the state legislature was now able to guaranteed school districts adequate funding to educate students, especially during the lean years of the Great Depression.

Mort continued to play an active role in educational funding concerns. He retired from Columbia University in 1959, but continued to serve in an advisory capacity on various boards and commissions. He died on May 12, 1962.