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Bipartisan effort looks to fund Massive Resistance-era scholarship program

Mallory Noe-Payne
Radio IQ
The Barbara Johns statue outside Virginia's capitol. As a student, Johns helped lead the fight to integrate Virginia's schools in the 1950's

Both Republicans and Democrats are looking to increase funding for a scholarship fund that benefits the descendants of those impacted by the state’s fight against school integration.

In the 1950s and 60s, Virginia shuttered its public school system rather than allow Black children to learn alongside white children. In an effort to repair some of the damage, in 2005 lawmakers set up the Brown vs. Board Scholarship Fund to support those directly impacted. As they aged out of education programs, the fund was expanded to include their descendants, but adequate money was not included in that update.

To fix that problem this year, Republican Delegate Terry Kilgore submitted a budget amendment that would see the program get $5 million over the next two years.

“It’s been underfunded for the last 4 to 5 years and if we’re going to have the scholarship fund we need to step up as a General Assembly and fund it,” Kilgore said.

Democratic Senator Creigh Deeds has a matching budget amendment in the Senate. He said he hoped it would easily pass to address the Commonwealth’s troubled past.

“A lot of people recognize we have these wrongs to right, we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Deeds said.

And folks on the commission that runs the scholarship are glad to hear about the funding as well. Prince William-area Delegate Candi Mundon King was appointed alongside her term in the House. She hopes more descendants apply this year.

“This is an important opportunity to link them to their own history and heritage of their grandparents, aunts and uncles,” Mundon King told Radio IQ.

While a $5 million request is a drop in the state’s $80 billion budget, the fate of the new funding request won't be known until the budget is released towards the end of session.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Brad Kutner is Radio IQ's reporter in Richmond.