The Maryland Black Caucus Foundation will hold its 24th annual legislative weekend next month to incorporate a Black agenda focused on criminal justice reform, housing and economic development.
The schedule begins Nov. 13 with a rally in Annapolis to spur support for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and force Gov. Larry Hogan to increase a $200 million settlement offer to resolve a lawsuit filed in 2006.
“That is a priority of the Black Caucus we need to get addressed,” said Del. Diana Fennell (D-District 47A) of Colmar Manor. “Our HBCUs deserve better.”
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law joined the suit with other HBCU supporters as part of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education.
Proponents assessed Bowie State, Coppin State and Morgan State universities and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and determined the schools receive inadequate funding compared to predominately white institutions.
According to fiscal year 2020 budget estimates, the state’s four HBCUs planned to receive an estimated $9.8 million in restricted revenue from state and local grants and contracts. The only school that receives less than $1 million is the University of Maryland Eastern Shore with about $560,620, an increase of $35,000 from the previous fiscal year.
The University of Maryland in College Park proposed to receive $34.5 million, nearly four times the amount of the four HBCUs combined, according to budget estimates.
Meanwhile, the legislative event will feature an interfaith community breakfast at the Tommy Douglas Conference Center in Silver Spring on Nov. 14. A breakfast and evening gala will take place Nov. 16 at Maryland Live in Hanover.
Between breakfast and dinner, people can attend all-day workshops Nov. 15 at the Miller Senate building in Annapolis to discuss a variety of topics.
One major topic possibly discussed deals with the ongoing proposal to improve the state’s public education. A funding formula work group recommended it may cost $4 billion, but jurisdictions such as Prince George’s County and Baltimore City would be asked to pay more to reach the 2030 goal for college and career readiness, teacher salaries and other education proposals.
Now the funding plan will be reviewed by the group known as the Kirwan Commission, named after its chair, William E. “Brit” Kirwan, the former University of Maryland System chancellor. The group will decide on several proposals and send to the governor and state lawmakers to review and craft into legislation when the General Assembly convenes Jan. 8.
That’s why Del. Nick Charles (D-District 25) of Forestville said it’s important for people to write, email and attend events such as the HBCU rally to push for change.
“It is going to take all of the NAACP [members] calling,” he said. “It’s going to take all of the fraternities calling. It’s all about the sororities calling. It’s about all the constituents saying, ‘No. This is what we want.’ When we come together, we are dangerous.”