Scope and Content Note

Commissioner James Edward Allen's subject files consist of correspondence, memoranda, meeting materials, reports, clippings, speeches, press releases, and other materials documenting the activities of the New York State Education Department (NYSED) under Dr. Allen's leadership. Some records are directly related to the operation of the Commissioner's Office and the State Education Department as a whole, while other records relate to issues surrounding the administration and financing of school districts, including issues of racial desegregation, state aid to public schools, and consolidation of school districts. Other records relate to NYSED's and Commissioner Allen's work to influence state and federal legislation related to education. There is a considerable amount of material related to education policy organizations, such as the Education Commission of the States and the Council of Chief State School Officers, in which Dr. Allen played a significant role. Also documented are other organizations with which Dr. Allen was involved, either personally or through his role as Commissioner of Education. The remainder of the series deals with various subjects, including elementary and secondary education curricula, educational television, the adjudication of teacher disputes, teacher certification, vocational education, professional education, civil defense, and health education.

Files labeled "Commissioner" document the functioning of the Commissioner's Office, as well as Dr. Allen's personal activities. Included is a considerable amount of correspondence relating to personal appearance and speaking engagements accepted and declined by Dr. Allen; letters of congratulations and recommendation for school personnel; and correspondence, newsletters, and meeting materials from organizations of which he was a member, such as the Advisory Council on the 1960 White House Conference on Children and Youth, the Joint Council on Economic Education, and the Learning Resources Institute. Also included are agenda and minutes from meetings of the Commissioner's Cabinet; texts of speeches, filed with accompanying correspondence, press releases, and suggestions from NYSED staff; and official written statements of the Commissioner.

Files labeled "Department Administration" refer to the daily operation of the State Education Department. Of particular note are correspondence, reports, and agenda of the Joint Legislative Committee to Revise and Simplify Education Law. In addition, there are published reports of the Governor's Study of Education, a series of five studies, initiated by Governor Nelson Rockefeller, of the "emerging requirements and increasing costs" of public education in New York. Also included are programs from yearly NYSED staff conferences, annual reports of NYSED, summaries of budget proposals, materials related to personnel issues, and planning documents relating to Department construction projects.

Much of the series relates to the administration, financing, and organization of school districts in New York State. School district desegregation was a prominent issue among school districts during Dr. Allen's tenure. The series documents attempts to achieve racial balance in school districts in Buffalo, Malverne, and Mount Vernon, N.Y. Included are letters from Dr. Allen to school districts asking them to submit plans for eliminating racial imbalance, reports issued by school districts in response to Dr. Allen's demands, press releases from NYSED on desegregation efforts, and correspondence with community leaders, school administrators, and others regarding official statements made by Dr. Allen in support of school desegregation. Other documents in the series relate to the changes in governance of the New York City school system, including the creation of a new Board of Education for New York City in 1963, and the creation of community-controlled school districts within New York City in 1967, which precipitated a city-wide teacher's strike in 1968. The files also document efforts by NYSED to consolidate smaller school districts and promote large, comprehensive high schools within school districts. These records include correspondence relating to 1956 legislation authorizing Commissioner Allen to revise the Master Plan for School District Reorganization, and responses to petitions from community members in school districts facing possible consolidation. Records relating to school financing include correspondence with legislators and school district administrators on revisions to the state aid formula and increases in state appropriations for school districts, as well as correspondence with members of the Joint Legislative Committee on School Financing, which was formed in 1960 to study the increasing scope and cost of state education.

Legislative files document the attempts by Commissioner Allen and NYSED to affect legislation at the federal and state levels. Dr. Allen's tenure coincided with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Acts (ESEA) of 1965, which greatly expanded the federal role in funding education. Included among the legislative files is correspondence from Dr. Allen to New York's congressional delegation noting problems with implementing ESEA in New York schools and offering suggestions for further amendments to the law. Also included are reports on the impact of ESEA on New York State schools, copies of ESEA legislation, and a transcript of Dr. Allen's testimony in 1967 to the U. S. Senate on proposed amendments to ESEA. Other federal legislation documented in these files includes the Higher Education Act of 1965, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Higher Education Facilities Act, the National Defense Education Act of 1958, and the Vocational Education Act of 1963. There is also extensive documentation of regular meetings between Dr. Allen and New York's congressional delegation, including reports distributed at these meetings on the likely effects of federal legislation on NYSED activities, as well as correspondence with specific congresspersons regarding NYSED views on federal legislation. Records relating to New York State legislation include correspondence with state legislators and legislative staff, lists of proposed legislation, and texts of bills. Also included are legislative proposals from the Board of Regents, as well as official messages from the governor relating his suggestions for legislative action.

There are an extensive number of files relating to various education-related organizations with which Dr. Allen was involved in his capacity as Commissioner of Education. Prominent among these organizations was the Education Commission of the States (ECS). Records, including drafts of the authorizing report of the ECS, "The Compact for Education," clearly document Allen's role in the formation of the ECS. Also included are correspondence and reports related to task forces, steering committees, and studies authorized by the ECS. Also present are documents relating to Dr. Allen's involvement in the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), including correspondence relating to the Heald study on the role of state education departments in American education, and correspondence relating to executive sessions of CCSSO to review drafts of the Elementary and Secondary Education Acts (ESEA). CCSSO materials also include agenda, minutes, resolutions, addresses from annual meetings, bulletins, and official position statements. The series also includes correspondence, meeting minutes, and newsletters from education organizations in New York State, including the New York State Citizens Committee for the Public Schools, Inc., the New York State School Boards Association, Inc., and the New York State Teachers Association.