The Virginia "Freedom Of Choice" school plan / Leon Dure ; interviewed by Ray Niblack.
In 1054 the United States Supreme Court handed down its historic school desegregation decision a Virginia County was one of the original defendants in this sued the state after a quiet attitude of acceptance in the beginning later turned to a massive resistance stance. But as the realities of massive school closings began to be manifest in the state and the state's own high court ruled against the program the state legislators then turned to another method of meeting this problem in the back of the minds of the legislators in the critical year of 1959 where the words of a man who had been crusading for the new approach for two years. The man was Leon Dore former editor now a farmer living outside of Charlottesville. The legislators ultimately even if somewhat reluctantly accepted most of his concepts even though inherent in those ideas was exceptions of the Supreme Court decision. A sense and the state leaders for
the most part have come to embrace this concept. And it is now the underpinning of a new philosophy of state participation in the field of education. A new concept of financing education of state pupil relations which in fact provides for almost universal participation in education but no management at least so far as race relations are concerned. And the question has arisen. Is it possible that new freedoms have evolved. In many respects the state still is in a stage of settling into these concepts and we have missed the door with us to review the program. Mr. Doe to begin at the beginning. What is your program which is now the state program. This state offers to every child of what I would call whatever means the individual and wholly free choice of either attending the public school of his locality. Although a teenie is
but capita share of public school money and for use it in any other public school or private school in this country that is a sweeping thing. It it really brings into being universal education as opposed to what most in fact all states now have except again you. That is a public monopoly of education. It frees the individual to pursue all sorts of education. Of course it cannot be denied that it came in Virginia because there Daniel was faced with what is known as desegregation. This means by this means Virginia escape any compulsory integration which its individuals did not want. In other words we have voluntary integration in Virginia surely.
However it does a great deal more that it brings into play and makes use of the freedom that people especially in a democracy have feel the need of and when they do get used to such advantage in so many ways. When I found out as bear on the Supreme Court desegregation decision that is a lot of people are sad that this is a dodge of a Supreme Court decision. What would you say to that. No it is not a dodge ball. It is based upon a what you might call a legal discovery and that is that the Supreme Court School decision is not really what it says it is that is the word opinion is not actually the decision. I think this has now been proved by all the actions of the district courts and circuit courts in applying especially applying the school decision to all sorts of things. The
wind reasoning was based on education but look what happened when this decision was handled by the law courts they immediately applied it to bathhouses to Fox to beaches to buses to everything in fact what they did was to say that all segregation by law is unconstitutional and that I might add as I fully agree with that decision not with the word opinion but with the decision. Now the discovery is this that what the Supreme Court really ordered was the individual freedom of association. It was. It brings into being a big new human right in this country of full stature. To my mind at least with the rights of speech press religion and assembly in fact freedom of association is part of the freedom of assembly I should say also that all of these freedoms these first to mimic freedoms have the negative side as well as the positive side in other words the freedom of speech includes the freedom not to speak
the freedom of the press includes the freedom to go fishing and as we as most people recognize the freedom of religion includes the freedom not to have any religion at all. Well the freedom of association therefore brings into being two rights the right to associate and the right not to associate. Now the genuineness you school all recognize recognizes this new discovery. In fact it except the spade position it does not die can it accept it and it applies it. In applying it to adolescence that is in granting the freedom of association to school people school children it creates the freedom of education and which I've mentioned both of which are new things in this country and both of which I think we will learn to employ it to a tremendous advantage. When you were talking of freedom of education in the brain just around the point what
educational AFACT educational effect do you think that this on this program has or will have as it develops. I think it will. I think it will be of enormous importance of education to begin with. Everyone has had the freedom to buy his private education. This is really a bit of an almost unfair fate. It means that rich people can't employ this freedom of education which really we've had for such people but that the people cannot to get it you have to you have had to this country to buy twice. I think the one single most important thing it will give us is the quality known as motivation. For example take shots feel they have several new private schools immediately was started and they were started originally for the purpose to escape compulsory integration there's no question about that. But as soon as interest started
immediately the interest turned to education and these were people for the most part it had never paid any attention to education before. But now they're competing mining main all day long plotting you might say to get the best teachers and to make their school the best there is. This is all to the good. The situation is roughly comparable I think to the to the status in this country of free speech and free press. And of course also free religion for that matter. That is the freedoms came as a protest. People wanted to in the case of free press for us as they wanted to criticize King George of it in all of his people in this country who as they saw it will mismanaging this country to do this of course was seditious at that time. But they insisted upon it anyway. And out of it we have our freedoms our First Amendment freedoms
Ledo people the same sort of revolt arose about curage and Thomas Jefferson out of that protest movement was able to create the freedom of religion. But you better be about educated. There's one huge advantage that private schools enjoy. All public schools schools Mind you I'm not really building's ownership of land and just teachers on the pay of the teachers is not so important. Immediately it is close over a long period of time. The important thing is the desire the individual desire of the student. In public schools this teachers we will assume polenta care of intellectual curiosity to children but they have no means to apply the stick behind a doctorate in private education. The teachers hold out the carrot and for the most part the parents supply the stick.
This means another ways or some way of this some accountability. If a child does poorly in a private school something happens. If a child is put in a public school not very much happens the end of the so-called enrichment program of New York City as it is a good example they have going to prime the parents the students and try to motivate the parents. This of course is a good thing. It draws a great deal of extra effort though in the public schools for the most part have not done that. It comes naturally when you give with the win you give grants to people scholarships to go to a private school requires effort and no one goes to a private school or money at all very few to get less education. They go to private schools to get more education. They buy in effect they buy on the education and that I think is all to the good. Little Rock this competition in education in Virginia will stimulate the public schools already have been protest about unfair
competition and then fails and put because I think that summarizes it from in a general way there are a lot you could talk for two hours about this aspect of things but this does show that we have release unleashed tremendous new forces in Virginia amounts on what's going on in this Charlottesville situation which you brought up there and which are by way of background. Quite a substantial number of people not by any means a majority but a substantial number have taken the tuition grants and have a stand against a school of their own an academy a high school and a grade school. In this case while they financed the construction of this school the purchase of the land in the construction themselves for privately schools operation is supported indirectly through tuition grants. Since nearly every student who goes there takes a state tuition grant probably
every student in the school is dependent upon this. Does this not make this a a a state operated school and therefore vulnerable to the same Supreme Court decision which brought about desegregation of Charlottesville schools. Anyway when I was there. It does not. The situation is exactly parallel to the state issue of welfare grants relief money pensions Alexis and things of that sort. And this money for years has been used by individuals to go to that to the institutions of that choice or even to use it it will no one has ever hailed. No court of this country has ever hailed that the employment of wealth family in private institutions made those institutions public institutions. The theory of course is is backed up by the Kennedy scholarship proposal just made just these last few weeks in Washington.
That is scholarships will be offered to college students to go to any school of their choice including even a ministerial or pro co-op or religious institutions the theory is this if they had the theory simply is that when the check gets to the individual gets to his bank account as what usually happens state action ends there. The money may or may not be used by the individual to support a private institution such as a religious institution. But if he does use it in a religious institution he will say for example it is not state actually that is doing that it is the individual's own action doing it. And that brings up of course a religious issue in the scholarship at the moment Virginia restricts the use of its new pupil scholarships to nonsectarian schools freedom of choice was not argued that way. In fact a lot of fight was conducted to try to to remove that
restriction. Unfortunately the reason it wasn't done one reason it wasn't done at least is the fact that we have of our constitutional situation in Virginia we had passed an amendment legalizing tuition grants in 1956 which limits States grants and the grass conceived of at that time was quite different from the free scholarships we have today limited to nonsectarian use. Well and to my mind this violates in the present scholarships both the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and also the Thomas Jefferson provisions you might say and it in the front part of the of the dated Constitution week. I it is my hope and the hope of a lot of other people recently they've expressed it that we will get a suited my clarify this that might make these grass usable in any institution which is of course the bonafide educational place. The question comes up frequently that this program was designed
primarily to ease the impact of integration in the public schools in Virginia and so we find that in some instances we have people is taking a scholarship grant and going from a segregated to an integrated school. And we have named Rose taking the grant to attend schools and people from all law economic strata taking these grants and going off to pretty exclusive New England private schools and that sort of thing. So there's been some agitation for eliminating it lemonade intuition grant program because it isn't really serving its purpose or its purpose is being perverted in certain ways. How do you answer these charges against him. The purpose of the scholarships was too weak to the individual his freedom to associate. And also
his freedom to arrange his own education in the fashion he chose. That is the purpose there can be no doubt that many hundreds of the scholarships are used in thought to get away from situations that were being integrated in this state. There can also be no doubt that because of this freedom Virginia was able to be segregated schools without any incident whatsoever and this is now the second year and everything has been calm and peaceful. Ever since this freedom was was instituted Did you have nothing I answered your question. Your question was it. Is it not true that this still has a a. A segregationist tinge to it I would say no. And the proof is this in Charlottesville there in and around Chavez fill the several counties around it. There are something like 12 hundred grants being made this year and those grants are going to
people. While there are several hundred to leave schools which would be segregated in shops from city our way it is also true that some 30 odd scholarships are being granted in Alomar County which is segregated. There's never been a kind of place to school they have to go to the integrated public schools the shot has failed. Now this proves that there's absolutely nothing of a racial tinge There's no influence either way in the law for a person either to associate with the group on not to associate with news and actually then I have always considered is a wrong way to look at it. I've always thought that it's not fair or simply proper to call a person a segregationist. Often integration the reason is this voluntary segregation or voluntary integration can be bad for the simple reason and a very good reason that everybody without exception for whatever shade of opinion or color practices both all day
long. It's a false issue the only issue is that of individual freedom to do what one wants to do. Now to set up what segregation by a lot of us have and what integration BY LAW does. Most people don't realize if the early integration the only way that that compulsory and that integration can occur in the United States is not from Supreme Court or the Supreme Court call as now on immigration. That's a false concept. Integration occurs either through one of two means either by state law all by individual choice. In Virginia we remove the state's role and left it a matter. Of individual choice. What could be more logical segregation by law pushes people taught integration BY LAW pushes people together. Now most people consider those two things are necessary alternatives you might say all options. They are not options for the simple reason that both segregation
and integration share one thing income state push and it's just a pushing that is a questionable thing. We have gotten rid of this push either way of Virginia we returned and we have returned schools to the same fix the same status of our streets clocks even our you might say our private superblocks only in the worst places people have the freedom to come and go and associate is a please and for that reason those places on never have been any problem it's a compulsion that was causing the problem in Virginia by getting rid of compulsion. We saw it completely so we think well this is Speaking of compulsion this may be something of a side issue but nevertheless it is something that a volunteer artist in Virginia put on a local option. The question of compulsory attendance laws that it that is a community a school district can have or not have compulsory attendance laws depending on
what the local school board decides you think is has any bearing one way or the other on this program. I personally would like to see the computer log back of the theory being of this distinction being this. We should have compulsory public education. But not compulsory public school attendance. It is true that we like that that were the General Assembly. Two years ago when they first passed freedom of choice did make it optional with the counties and cities of Virginia. Oddly enough this is most curious about half of them I think this is approximately accurate has been so little of an issue that I don't even know but I think that half of them did drop all have NOT have no such laws of compulsory education on the books today but on enough the fall of the dropouts in Virginia have been so very very few that no one has taught even Mission and wears leave. You would have thought that the
thing might have been discussed this last Assembly session last year Dwane mentioned. I'm sure the term how we will have to return the glow of compulsory education in the books. Now there's one other problem that comes up frequently by persons agitating for the end of tuition branch and that is a say that they're tremendously costly community asked to spend are well to the community of Shotwell for instance list this item of which share of these grants constitute a pretty sizable item in the budget. Would you say. That this is actually a heavy expense on the community that is really one of the most. It's become almost amusing. Everyone rid me of the General Assembly thought it would cost billions but assembly really had to it was faced just headed up this law no matter what they thought and it ended a bit talked about starting a sales tax and as a state probably
95 percent of everybody thought it would cost barriers. It was pointed out that there are only 5 percent of the children in Virginia in private schools now and therefore the next will of course couldn't conceivably more than be more than 5 percent of what the budget it is now. No one of course leaves. And I might add that 5 percent increase is not very much when you consider the fact that public school expenses of this state and almost in almost every state in the country have been going up probably 10 15 or even 20 percent a year for the last 15 years anyway. When the law was passed they had money all of the rich that is to pay for these grants appropriated money from this fund that funded the problem put someone of the drug in the governor's office. Imagine their surprise any year later when they found out that the cost was one million dollars for the first year's gross cost. That's not net cost by alongside the net cost of probably most state of Virginia lashes part of no
more than say 2 to 400000 and that would compare with public school expenses last year in Virginia two hundred and two hundred and sixty six million we spent for 750000 public students last year got that figure to 66 million and we spent on grants for four thousand seven hundred fifty people. As the saying goes cost a one of a of the truth of the matter is since we get out roughly speaking all of the operating costs of the public schools everyplace believes the public schools we save the housing space he was using we save the capital because of course all private school people is a net increase in the question about that. But in a rough sort of way every three people who drop out of the public schools under the existing arrangement pays for one old private school. This cost is very very little and manually it has brought peace on the one
hand and it is also wrong motivation to Paris when the other a very small price. I think at least to pay for it. Briefly I wonder if you could tell me when you first and how you first came upon this concept we've got about three minutes left I think. It was an accident it was an accident based upon the fact that I was commuting to Washington Lee University they were so desperate that they asked me a former newspaperman and who's now phone to commute to teach a few courses at Weiss Lee University when I got there house shocked a bit. Find one of the courses was called the law of the press a subject which I had never I knew nothing whatever about. So it is from a strict legal viewpoint. How about all newspaper men really do know this law they never consult lawyers they know what prey they know what they can print in the what they can't print but they could not say their life cycle case is one of if these rights are based on.
So I had to do a little reading and it isn't very much to be honest it's just a matter of reading some some Supreme Court decisions and reading those decisions I thought well I might as well read desegregation decisions too and when I did it was obvious to me that all of these decisions are the same thing. They all involve First Amendment law and I could see at least to my notion they were an opinion just had nothing to do with the case they will. They might be true might not be true but they were not law and they certainly could not. There was no way for the court to implement any such decisions. A court can't or people to let me explain it this way. Everybody has a freedom we say to go to a square plot of ground in the middle of city hall. Southern states have been saying that colored people could not go to this public square. The Supreme Court's pale in effect this is all of the world that was decided that no state or political subdivision could prevent anything that isn't how many colored want
to go to any public place. So what happens. So the colored man south can go to that public square and after one I'm all for it I think that's all right and fair and I think it's a very sound statement but at the same time no court has ever ordered anyone else to go to that square therefore the great mistake is made when we say that integration was ordered by the Supreme Court it wasn't taught it was easy everyone was given the freedom to move freely in public places. That does not mean of course that anyone has to go to these public places exactly all of Foyt saying areas of our own town we're free to go there but we don't go there for what the reason they're not racial. We prefer second neighborhoods to other neighborhoods. And that of course applies to schools we apply we favor schools which offer which are we wish we're comfortable you might say to schools in which we are not comfortable. There's nothing moral about the problem at all it's merely a matter of it's an aesthetic and
and intellectual proposition. There's no morality in it whatsoever. Has this concept been adopted as have been spreading outside of the state of Virginia. Yes it is been adopted in Louisiana in December and then it was adopted just this last month I believe enjoy both of those states seized upon the theory of the freedom of association and of course they soon learned was to get into such a paper to make it apply to to people of all ages children I mean they would have to also confer freedom of education. This has been done in those two states and there's every reason to believe actually it'll be done by every southern state in time once it is understood. It's time it passed a little spread outside the South. And that of course is my home. Thank you sir. You've been listening to Mr. Lay on the door. The author of Virginia's freedom of choice scholarship program. This
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- Discussion of Virginia's school desegregation plan and whether or not it complies with the Brown vs. the Board of Education (1954) Supreme Court decision to integrate the schools of the United States. Leon Dure, originator of the plan, is interviewed by Ray Niblack, news director of radio station WINA, Charlottesville, VA.
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- School integration -- Virginia; African Americans--Civil rights--History
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Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
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- MLA: “ The Virginia "Freedom Of Choice" school plan / Leon Dure ; interviewed by Ray Niblack. .” 1961-04-10. Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 9, 2020. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-28-z60bv7bg13>.
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