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For 15 years, there has been a legal battle between the state of Maryland and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Blavity reports. The lawsuit filed in 2006 accused Maryland of underfunding HBCUs while developing programs at predominately white institutions that rivaled them – taking away potential students. In 2013, a federal judge found that the state had maintained “a dual and segregated education system” that violated the Constitution.
“With today’s historic settlement of the HBCU litigation, we are finally able to move forward to give every college student in Maryland the chance to succeed,” Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones, who sponsored the legislation, said.
House Speaker Jones, the first Black woman to serve as a presiding officer in the General Assembly, has been leading the efforts for the last two years to make things right. She has worked overtime to get the bill passed. Alumni and supporters from Bowie State University, Coppin State, Morgan State, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore have argued that the HBCUs were getting the short end of the stick compared to their white, heavily funded counterparts.
“This settlement marks an historic investment in Maryland’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” Attorney General Brian Frosh said. “It will enable these valued institutions to expand their academic reach and to assist thousands of students with getting the education they deserve.”
A couple of years ago, Gov. Larry Hogan came under fire after making a “final offer” of $200 million to settle the case. Educational advocates and state Democrats all criticized his decision, saying it was “extremely low,” given the requirements needed at the institutions. Lawyers representing the HBCU coalition eventually drafted a letter to elected officials with new numbers that reflect what was just passed.
Last year, he vetoed a nearly identical bill due to the uncontrollable factors associated with the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Hogan finally changed his tune, signing a bill Wednesday that guaranteed $577 million in additional funds over ten years to the HBCUs. Hogan also criticized former governor Martin O’Malley for not resolving this issue during his term.
“It was a great cooperation between us and the Republicans and the Democrats in the legislature,” Hogan said.
A ceremony was held at Bowie State to commemorate the bill, with Jones and Senate president Bill Ferguson standing alongside Hogan to sign the bill into law.
“We finally got to this day,” Jones said.
Morgan State President David Wilson also spoke about the significance of this moment, saying, “I’m pleased to see this fight has finally come to an end…Morgan and our other HBCUs have been pulling the weight in this state in terms of creating a Black middle class, and we have been doing it without due respect. So, the money is great. We need that, but respect, as well.”
Frosh said he expects to meet a June 11 deadline with federal courts to confirm the terms. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has strongly encouraged Maryland to settle, and Frosh said he’s optimistic the court would accept the terms.
Funds will be distributed to the institutions starting in 2023, sending payments of $57.7 million annually for 10 years to each of the state’s HBCUs. The extra funding will create and expand upon programs, online class offerings, financial aid, faculty training initiatives, and any other functions needed academically.
Congratulations, they deserve this money!
Photo Courtesy of The Independent