PE Endowment Proposal Gets No Legislation

Published 5:22 pm Thursday, January 19, 2012

FARMVILLE – A citizen-proposed $11.75 million endowment for Prince Edward County's public schools using state funding not appropriated during Massive Resistance will not be considered by the General Assembly this year.

No legislation or budget amendments were filed in the House of Delegates or State Senate.

With 90 percent of the state's school superintendents expecting “drastic budget shortfalls” based on Governor McDonnell's proposed budget, according to the Virginia School Superintendents Association, the political and economic climate made passage of the proposed legislation highly unlikely, according to legislative sources.

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Advocates say they will look toward the 2013 session of the General Assembly.

The proposal for $11.75 million to be used on specific targeted educational projects or programs decided by the community was made during the Martin Luther King Memorial Commission's meeting in Farmville on October 3.

A member of the audience attending that meeting was allowed by commission chairman, Senator Henry Marsh, to formally present the idea and asked the MLK commission to proceed with legislation. The endowment is meant to help address the generational impact of the five-year school closings in Prince Edward.

During the 1958-59 school year, the Commonwealth of Virginia appropriated $369,000 for public education in Prince Edward County. The public school system was closed for the next five years, during which time county residents continued paying state taxes.

In today's dollars, the $369,000 appropriated by the state in 1958-59 would be roughly $2.35 million-based on the fact that the dollar today has slightly more than six times the buying power than it did in 1958 to 1964. Using level funding for the five-year period schools were closed, that would total $11.75 million in today's dollars.

The proposal drew a supporting resolution from the Prince Edward County School Board during its November meeting.

Sen. Marsh said during October's meeting in Farmville that the proposal would be considered during the commission's next meeting, on December 5.

At that December meeting the commission considered the proposal and voted to refer the matter to the Brown Scholarship Committee, which is chaired by Del. Rosalyn R. Dance, also a member of the MLK Commission, according to Brenda Edwards, Senior Research Associate with the Division of Legislative Services, who provides staff support for both the Brown Scholarship Committee and the MLK Commission

But neither the Brown Scholarship Committee nor the MLK Commission-both of which include area legislators-scheduled a subsequent meeting prior to the General Assembly's 2012 session and neither can meet during the session, Ms. Edwards told The Herald in an email.

The committee will meet following the 2012 session of the General Assembly, according to both Ms. Edwards and the office of Del. Dance.

In an email to The Herald, Del. Dance's interim legislative assistant, Marilyn Cole, wrote that, “The issue would have needed the approval of the full Brown v. Board of Education Committee. Due to Senator Marsh and Mrs. Edwards being out of the country during the month of December no meeting was scheduled. The committee will meet again after the 2012 session.”

In addition to the state not appropriating funds for public education in Prince Edward during the five years schools were closed, Prince Edward County residents continued to pay state taxes, tax revenue that was used, in large part, to fund public education in every other locality in the state.

According to the Virginia Department of Taxation, Prince Edward County residents paid a total of $1.18 million in income tax to the Commonwealth of Virginia during those five years, or more than $7 million in today's dollars, and another $241,000-more than $1.2 million in today's dollars-in state alcohol taxes at the Farmville ABC store, according to the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Prince Edward County residents also paid state cigarette and gas taxes but records of those annual payments have not yet been found.