Two more private schools in Virginia with histories of racial discrimination have won tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service, a congressman charged yesterday.
Rep. J.J. Pickle (D-Tex.), chairman of the House Ways and Means oversight subcommittee, said the IRS gave the status to the Amelia Educational Foundation and Isle of Wight County Educational Foundation, both in southern Virginia, without proper review.
"The two additional cases appear to be very similar to the one involving Prince Edward School Foundation, which was granted tax-exempt status by an IRS district office without proper review by the national office," said Pickle.
The IRS decision to grant tax-exempt status last fall to the Prince Edward Academy -- for years a symbol of Virginia's policy of Massive Resistance to school desegregation -- produced a flurry of protests from civil rights groups and some members of Congress. The IRS blamed a bureaucratic mixup for the decision.
Pickle disputed yesterday the school's claim that it has adopted a policy of nondiscrimination. He said the IRS files on the case indicated there "was little, if any evidence that the school had changed its discriminatory practices."
The agency is still reviewing that case and a decision is expected sometime next month, according to congressional officials. The Prince Edward school was created when public schools in the Virginia county were closed in 1959 by whites who refused to integrate.
In a document released yesterday by Pickle, the IRS said that 15 private schools whose tax exemptions were revoked because of racial discrimination have won back their tax-exempt status.
Three of those cases, including Prince Edward, were not properly reviewed by the district and national IRS offices, according to the document. Both the Amelia and Isle of Wight decision are under IRS review for "procedural irregularities," the IRS document said.
Neither academy nor IRS officials could be reached for comment.
The IRS is reviewing "the adequacy of all our procedures, guidelines and instructions concerning private schools," according to the agency memo dated Jan. 21 and released by the congressman. An aide to Pickle said that, as part of that review, the agency is reexamining the cases of all other private schools with discriminatory histories.
"The law is clear that private schools may not be tax-exempt if they operate in a racially discriminatory manner," said Pickle.
The IRS said in the memo that a school with a history of racial discrimination must provide "clear and convincing evidence that it no longer discriminates . . . . " That evidence can include recruitment of black students and teachers, scholarships for black students, and an open admissions policy.
Actual enrollment of minority students is not required. But schools cannot regain their tax-exempt status merely by adopting and publicizing a policy of nondiscrimination, according to the agency memo.
Tax exemption is crucial for many private schools because it frees them from federal taxes and lets supporters make tax-deductible gifts.
The Reagan administration tried to revoke the IRS policy of denying tax-exemption to schools with histories of racial discrimination. But in 1983, the Supreme Court stopped it from restoring the status to 111 schools. The court said the government can and should withhold tax benefits from such schools.