A year ago, the General Assembly unanimously expanded eligibility for the Brown v. Board of Education scholarship program, but provided no additional funding.
The state Legislature created the initiative in 2004 to benefit people excluded from schools during Virginia's massive resistance to the landmark 1954 Brown v. Supreme Court school desegregation decision. did.
In Prince Edward County, the entire public school system was closed from 1959 to 1964. More than 2,000 African American children were left without formal education for the rest of their lives, as were about 250 whites.
Programs for Virginia residents (black and white) include, but are not limited to, funding for career and technical education, two-year degree programs, and four-year undergraduate degree programs. not.
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Lawmakers expanded eligibility to include direct and collateral descendants of those directly affected by mass resistance movements. The Ministry of Planning and Budget advised that the fiscal impact of this was “uncertain” and that the changes “could potentially expand eligibility to thousands of people”.
Expanding the program creates a moral commitment to provide sufficient funding to make impactful progress within the new terms, and House Republicans and Senate Democrats aim to do so during the 2024 session.
Identical budget amendments filed by Rep. Terry Kilgore (R-Scott) and Sen. Clay Dees (D-Charlottesville) would include the expanded mandate signed into law by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. It is seeking $5 million to help the program achieve its goals.
The proposed budget amendment would include $2.5 million each year in the 2024-26 state budget that lawmakers will send to the governor. This funding is specifically earmarked for scholarships for descendants.
The effects of school closures, particularly in Prince Edward, have had intergenerational effects, so the province deserves praise for expanding eligibility. In fact, the original proposal submitted to the state in 2003 included children and grandchildren.
But without the funding to meaningfully accommodate new state mandates, expanding eligibility means little. The Brown Scholarship Program's endowment balance is less than $1 million, and the Governor-appointed Scholarship Committee limits the number of scholarships awarded to descendants to no more than 10 per year, with each award exceeding $10,000. I decided not to.
The Brown Scholarship Committee has prioritized honoring its original commitment to those directly affected by mass resistance movements, and they have no scholarship restrictions or funding caps.
Twenty years after the program began, such applications have largely ceased. But Martin Bailey Brown, a 77-year-old freshman at the University of Virginia, is part of a 27-year-old graduating class who was 13 when public education was abolished in Prince Edward for five years. What a testament to character and determination!
The strict annual limit of 10 Descendant Scholarships clearly demonstrates that the remaining funds available do not allow the Brown Scholarship Program to effectively implement the Eligibility Expansion Directive.
This is an opinion column from The Times-Dispatch's opinion page.
Consider the number of direct and collateral descendants from Prince Edward alone. Seven schools in Norfolk, two in Charlottesville, and one in Warren County were closed for most of the 1958-1959 school year.
Kilgore was approached last May, when he was still House majority leader, and immediately insisted the $5 million budget amendment was a good proposal. He agreed that the state should fund expanded programs.
The original hope was to include that $5 million in Governor Youngkin's proposed biennial budget. When it became clear in December that he had not done so, Mr. Kilgore promised to introduce his own budget amendment.
In the 1950s, Ted Dalton, another Republican state senator from southwestern Virginia, led the fight against the Democratic Bird Machine's massive resistance program.
And, as Virginia's attorney general, Kilgore's twin brother Jerry publicly supported state funding for the Brown Scholarship program for a final legislative vote in 2004.
Kilgore was among 94 House members who voted for Gov. Mark Warner's $1 million budget amendment, even though the state budget originally included just $50,000. With that allocation and $1 million from philanthropist John Kluge, he established the Brown Scholarship Program for $2.05 million.
Sen. Dees was contacted a week before the 2024 General Assembly convened, and in a show of bipartisanship, he quickly agreed to submit a budget amendment to the Senate that matched Mr. Kilgore's budget amendment in the House. did. Dees also supported Governor Warner's budget amendment 20 years ago, along with other voting senators.
At lunch five weeks before the June 16, 2004 vote, the late Julian Bond said to me: “If you're successful, this will be the first civil rights-era reparation in this country.'' Bond, an iconic figure of the civil rights movement, was the national president of the NAACP at the time. I was able to speak with historical authority.
When some people hear the word “reparations,” they flinch, as if they were a rattlesnake with a piece of dynamite stuck to its body, rather than a word that simply means repairing damage. The word “repair” comes from the Latin word “reparare,” which means to restore or restore to its original state.
Repairing damage done to others is the noblest pursuit. Many careers and missions are completely focused on that goal. The Virginia General Assembly has a long history of doing so.
An annual review of the bills and budget amendments passed by legislators and signed by the governor, and how many have the goal of repairing harm or preventing harm, as Dalton did in the 1950s. Please pay attention to.
Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Deese's budget amendment cannot prevent the deep wounds inflicted by mass protests in the past, but they do not prevent the generational damage caused by Virginia's once formal policy. would be helpful in repairing.
Republicans and Democrats are giving the General Assembly and the governor an opportunity to honor the moral commitments they made in 2023.
The past is beyond our reach. Tomorrow belongs to someone else. But the present is only ours, and it is absolutely everywhere today.
Ken Woodley was editor of the Farmville Herald newspaper in Prince Edward County for 25 years. He is the author of Pathways to Healing: A Story of Civil Rights Reparations in Prince Edward County, Virginia. Please contact email@example.com.