Lutheran schools and education were a priority for Lutherans who emigrated to the United States and Australia from Germany and Scandinavia. One of the first things they did was to create schools for their children. This strong educational tradition was handed down from Martin Luther himself. The oldest continuously operating school in the United States is St. Matthew Lutheran School in Manhattan. It was started in 1752 and still operates preschool through eighth grades.
When the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod (LCMS) was founded in 1847, this tradition of Lutheran education was continued. The synod was started by twelve churches that operated a total of nineteen schools. Several of the churches operated a number of schools in the rural countryside so that students would not have to walk too far to school each day.
Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod: Statistics
The LCMS operates the largest Protestant school system in the United States. Currently the LCMS operates 1,368 Early Childhood Centers, 1,018 elementary schools, 102 high schools, ten universities and two seminaries for a total of 2488 schools in the United States. These schools educate more than 280,000 students and are taught by almost 18,000 teachers. The only state without a Lutheran school is Maine. Lutheran schools operated by the LCMS also exist in Hong Kong and mainland China (2006-2007 school year statistics).
For the most part, Lutheran schools are operated by individual congregations. Some schools are operated by groups of congregations, or associations. The schools are autonomous in that they hire their own teachers, select their own curriculum, and set their own fees. In the past most of the costs were paid by the operating congregations. With the economic situation that exists today more and more of the operating funds come from tuition and fees.