Tuition Grants

Tuition grants were an essential part of the massive resistance strategy. The Gray Commission called for amending the state Constitution to allow for tuition grants, and in March 1956 a state constitutional convention approved the Gray Plan amendment allowing public funds for private schools. The 1956 Special Session in August built tuition grants into virtually every aspect of its massive resistance legislation. It amended the state's retirement plan for teachers to allow it to serve teachers in approved private academies. The laws empowered the State Board of Education to provide tuition grants and charged the localities with estimating and budgeting the payments for them. Governor J. Lindsay Almond, Jr. pushed for and passed through the General Assembly in January 1959 a measure to allow tuition grants of $250 per pupil to parents who wanted to send their children to private schools rather than to an integrated public school under federal court orders. In January 1959 federal and state courts overturned the tuition grants and the school closing measures as in violation of the state and federal constitution. In the case of the tuition grants part of the massive resistance laws, Almond and Democratic leaders set out to revive the program. Almond's new program was based on his conviction that having failed to defeat desegregation his administration would not force any student or parent to accept integration against his or her will. In response to the courts' decisions, conservative legislators, such as Senator Garland Gray, proposed closing all public schools in February 1959 and issuing tuition grants to all students. Almond and his attorney general Albertis S. Harrison opposed Gray's drastic measure as unworkable, and Gray's bill did not make it out of the education committee. The governor's proposal, while more moderate, spurned the public school system and predicted a likely future for private schools. The new tuition grants program which operated from 1959 to 1964 differed from the first one because it was open to all parents not only those directly avoiding integrated public schools. As a result parents used the program to offset the costs of expensive private schools which their children had always attended. Others used them to move children from the still segregated public schools to integrated private schools, and others to send their children to integrated public schools in another county. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants went to Northern Virginia parents sending their children to private schools. Still, the glaringly segregationist use of the grants in Prince Edward County continued to allow the public schools to remain closed and the private segregationist academy there to flourish. In 1964 the Supreme Court and federal district courts ruled the tuition grants unconstitutional in the Prince Edward case, and the state legislature ended the program.