EducationLocalWilliam J. Ford

Md. Lawmakers Pressed to Fully Fund HBCUs

ANNAPOLIS – Kayla Moore testified Tuesday in Annapolis on how she participated in an exchange program while at Coppin State University in Baltimore with students at Frostburg State University.

Moore recalled that the state distributed more money to Frostburg to deal with pregnancy and opioid challenges in their respective communities.

“Our state is struggling to fill our schools with qualified, diverse educators, but we will never meet this need if we continue to essentially divest from our four [historically Black colleges and universities],” said Moore, 23, a second grade teacher at University Park Elementary in Prince George’s County. “Doing so poses a negative impact on graduating high school seniors who want to be educators in Maryland, ultimately stunting the recruitment of diverse educators from our state, for our state.”

Moore joined dozens of other alumni, students and other supporters to tell the House Appropriations Committee to fund Maryland’s four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Specifically, the group called for the committee to recommend legislation sponsored by House Speaker Adrienne Jones for the governor to include $57.7 million in the state’s operating budget beginning in fiscal 2022 for the state’s HBCUs.

LaTasha Ward of Prince George's County shows off her Bowie State University sweatshirt after a Feb. 25 public hearing in Annapolis on a proposed bill to help fund Maryland's four historically Black colleges and universities. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
LaTasha Ward of Prince George’s County shows off her Bowie State University sweatshirt after a Feb. 25 public hearing in Annapolis on a proposed bill to help fund Maryland’s four historically Black colleges and universities. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Before testimony continued at the hearing, Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), who chairs the Appropriations Committee, praised Moore.

“You are an example of what we want to move toward in Maryland,” she said to rousing applause.

The bill is one of the top priorities of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, which seeks to end the ongoing 13-year HBCU lawsuit.

The money would be designated this way: $24 million for Morgan State University, $16.7 million for Bowie State University, $9.6 million for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and $7.2 million for Coppin State University.

According to the bill, money would be used to pay for scholarships and support services, recruit faculty, expand existing programs and implement new ones, academic support and marketing.

The bill also requires the state Higher Education Commission, a defendant in the suit, to study and review its current policies and practices “with respect to academic program review.” A report would be issued to the governor, Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson by Dec. 1.

The bill was partly spurred by a court decision ruling that the state failed to eliminate a “policy of unnecessary duplication of programs at historically Black colleges and universities in the state that has exacerbated the racial identifiability of Maryland’s [HBCUs].”

The annual amount would continue through until 2030 and is estimated to equal $577 million, a settlement figure agreed to by the plaintiffs, Maryland HBCUs Matters Coalition, alumni and other advocates in the suit.

Gov. Larry Hogan offered to settle for $200 million, which the Black Caucus called “unacceptable.”

Semaj Fielding (left) and Ewa Okulate, who attend the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, traveled to Annapolis on Feb. 25 to support legislation that would budget an estimated $57.7 million for the state's four historically Black colleges and universities. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Semaj Fielding (left) and Ewa Okulate, who attend the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, traveled to Annapolis on Feb. 25 to support legislation that would budget an estimated $57.7 million for the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

Ewa Okulate, 20, who attends the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, agreed.

“As we see with our other counterparts, we do not receive as much funding and we’re here to say, ‘That’s not OK,'” said the 20-year-old senior, who is double-majoring in English and marketing. “We need to fund for our first-generation students and people who need more opportunities at HBCUs.”

Inside the packed hearing room, a few people offered support of the bill with a few amendments.

One of them would be to ensure each school receives at least $10 million annually. The legislation proposes the two smaller schools, Coppin State and Eastern Shore, receive less at $7.2 million and $9.6 million, respectively.

Michael D. Jones, an attorney with Kirkland Ellis and lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said each school should be allowed to hire its own consultant. The bill calls for a consultant to assist the institutions “as a collective with programmatic development.”

If the bill gets approved with the amendments, Jones said his clients would dismiss the suit.

He still thanked the legislators for being “on the verge of making history.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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