A commencement celebration at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Courtesy of UMES)
A commencement celebration at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Courtesy of UMES)

An ongoing Maryland HBCU dispute over equity and funding was the subject of an NAACP telephone town hall last week that also addressed the lack of HBCU funding nationwide. 

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan offered $200 million recently as a final offer and settlement to resolve a 13-year-old lawsuit over disparities in funding for Maryland’s higher education system. The amount is less than half of what advocates for the state’s four HBCUs claim is equitable to correct a system that fostered segregation and undermined HBCU programs impacted by better-funded programs at traditionally white institutions.  

Kristen Clark, president and executive director for Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Northwest, said Hogan could bring a resolution “with a simple swipe of his pen.” 

Clark also said lawmakers in the General Assembly could appropriate money through a bill to House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller. 

“We need people to speak up and let them know that they are outraged so that our elected officials hear them,” she said Thursday, Oct. 10. “Stop stalling and dragging their feet and bring justice to the state’s HBCUs and bring justice to the people of Maryland who deserve it.” 

The lawyers’ committee joined the lawsuit against the state in 2006 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 these schools received a lack of funding for academic programs funded at predominately white institutions. 

According to the fiscal year 2020 budget estimates, the state’s four HBCUs planned to receive an estimated $9.8 million in restricted revenue in state and local grants and contracts. The only school that receives less than a million dollars is the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, with about $560,620, an increase from $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. 

“We will not sleep until Maryland pays up and fairly funds these institutions to bring them back to a competitive level with other institutions in the state,” Clark said. 

Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro said Monday, Oct. 14, the HBCU case will be one of the main topics discussed by the state’s Legislative Black Caucus at an all-day retreat Oct. 24 in Annapolis. 

“We need to sit down and get back to the drawing board,” he said. 

Barnes, who chairs the Black Caucus, responded to Hogan’s settlement in an Oct. 7 letter that the $200 million settlement “is woefully inadequate.” 

According to the letter, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit would accept $800 million over ten years to resolve the case for Maryland’s four HBCUs: Bowie State, Coppin State, and Morgan State universities and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. 

“Your offer of $200 million to fund all four institutions is insulting and embarrassing and expresses your unwillingness to take seriously a grave injustice perpetrated by this state,” Barnes said in the letter.

“For what it’s worth, we agree that regardless of party, throughout much of our state’s history, African-American institutions endured years of systemic discrimination. The point is that your administration is now in a position to change the narrative and act in good faith.” 

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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