Brown v. Board of Education scholarship program gets $2.5 million

Published 6:43 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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The Brown v Board of Education Scholarship Program got a shot in the arm this past week, with $2 million in funding from the state budget. The Scholarship Committee, which runs the operation, also announced they secured $50,000 in federal grant funding. All of that was critically needed, in order to keep the project going. The fund started in the 2005-2006 school year with around $2 million and since then 88 students have received scholarships. Up until now, that left $989,185 in the fund. 

To be clear, let’s explain what the Brown v Board of Education scholarship program is. It was set up to give a second chance at education, providing scholarship funds for anyone who was unable to attend public schools between 1954 and 1964, due to schools closing in order to avoid desegregation. As we’ve mentioned before, Prince Edward County was one of the areas that shut down schools. That decision was later overturned at the U.S. Supreme Court, in the 1964 Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward case. Charlottesville, Arlington, Norfolk and Warren County also shut down their respective school districts. So this scholarship fund has been available to residents in any of those areas who had been affected by the closings. 

A change for Brown v Board program

This past year, there was a slight change in how the program was administered. As of July 1, 2023, eligibility for the scholarship program was extended beyond those directly impacted by the closings. Now, descendents of those people can also benefit from the scholarships. That includes not just children, but grandchildren, great-grandchildren, nieces and nephews. That’s why getting extra funding this past week was so critical. You had a shrinking scholarship fund at a time when the General Assembly decided to expand the number of people eligible to apply. 

Who decides? 

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Who chooses candidates from the applicant pool? Who decides which people get approved for funding? That would be the Brown v. Board Scholarship Committee. It’s easy at times to forget the group exists, because meetings are so rare. In fact, when the group met on May 9, 2023, that was the first time they had come together in four years. 

Why is that? The board only meets when they have a new applicant, which hadn’t happened at that point since 2019. 

It’s a joint operation, with members of the General Assembly working alongside multiple citizens. And those citizens have some familiar names. Joan Johns Cobbs, sister of Moton High strike leader Barbara Rose Johns, is part of the group. As is Longwood Vice President for Student Affairs Cameron Patterson. Paris Turner, Grenada Kearney and Dr. Barbara Inman. 

On the General Assembly side, it’s State Sen. Angelia Williams Graves taking over, as she was unanimously elected as Chairperson. Also on the Assembly side, there’s Del. Jackie Hope Glass, State Sen. Ghazala F. Hashmi, Del. Candi Mundon King, Del. Chiris Runion and Del. Anne Ferrell Tata. 

Graves expressed gratitude for being entrusted with this significant role, emphasizing the committee’s power to bring about meaningful change through education. 

“This is a significant victory for Virginia,” Graves said. “I commend my colleagues for their unwavering commitment to developing a sustainable plan for the future of the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship program. Their dedication ensures that we can continue to support educational opportunities for these deserving students.”