A renewed call from national and state governments to strengthen connections between public schools and their communities invites people outside of the school system to play an active role in decision-making processes. Despite recent efforts to connect public schools and their communities, the two parties remain disconnected. Given this disconnection, it is instructive to ask what practices, past and present, have supported or perpetuated it. The intent of this article is to reflect on the historical literature relevant to the development of public education from the 19th century to the present for the purpose of illuminating the roots of this persistent disconnection. In examining the fracturing of the economic, religious, and political connections - all of which have nearly dissolved - the article suggests that the historical development of disconnection must be addressed if future reform efforts are to build bridges.