By Pamela Wood
Baltimore Sun |
Feb 07, 2020 | 10:30 AM
House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones is hoping to force the state to settle a long-running lawsuit that alleges it made decisions that harmed the viability of Maryland's historically black colleges and universities, including Coppin State University in Baltimore, shown in this 2007 photo.
Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones is hoping to force the state to settle a long-running lawsuit that alleges it made decisions that harmed the viability of historically black colleges and universities.
A federal court has already ruled against the state in parts of the lawsuit, which four state universities filed in 2006.
Both sides have participated in court-ordered settlement discussions, but have not reached an agreement.
Jones is introducing a bill in the House that would require the governor to spend $580 million over the next 10 years at the four colleges on initiatives including creating academic programs, expanding scholarships and financial aid, recruiting faculty, providing more academic supports to students and marketing the schools to potential students.
The spending proposed in Jones’ legislation is in line with a request for a $577 million settlement from a coalition representing Bowie State University, Coppin State University and Morgan State University in Baltimore, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.
Gov. Larry Hogan, meanwhile, has held firm that he will not increase the state’s “final offer” last fall of $200 million, an increase over an earlier $100 million offer.
“No one is more committed to resolving this issue than Governor Hogan, who has funded HBCUs at record levels and dramatically increased the state’s offer to settle this 13-year-long lawsuit,” Mike Ricci, a spokesman for the Republican governor, said in a statement.
One of the key issues of contention in the lawsuit is that the state allowed predominantly white institutions to have academic programs that duplicated those at the historically black colleges, perpetuating segregation among the state’s universities.
“The issue of program duplication has lingered for far too long and is a blemish on our state’s strong system of higher education,” Jones said Thursday in a statement. “I am pleased to have a solution to move forward and offer every student the support for the bright future they deserve.”
Michael D. Jones, an attorney representing the universities, said he’s pleased lawmakers are trying to resolve the lawsuit.
“I think this is an excellent development. I applaud her leadership,” Jones said of the Democratic speaker.
The attorney said the governor has been “shortsighted” not to settle the lawsuit and fund improvements at the colleges.
“I think the legislature is taking a longer view of this and recognizing that ultimately, it will be good for the state,” he said.
Del. Darryl Barnes, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, said his group supports Jones’ legislation.
“We have the opportunity to set a precedent for other states to follow as we make history in the state of Maryland,” Barnes, a Prince George’s Democrat, said in a statement.
IF THE U.S. SENATE CAN DO THIS WHAT'S THE PROBLEM WITH THE MARYLAND GENERAL ASSEMBLY?
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FROM THE BALTIMORE SUN
The Baltimore City Council on Monday adopted a resolution calling for the state to settle a longstanding lawsuit over disparities in the way Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities are funded.
Advocates for the state’s four HBCUs proposed in September the state pay $577 million to settle the case, which has wound through the legal system for more than a decade. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan responded with what he called a “final offer” of $200 million to settle the case.
Announcing his resolution at a City Council lunch meeting, City Council President Brandon Scott said the governor was “insulting HBCUs with his offer.”
Scott, a Democrat, said the state should reach an agreement with the HBCU coalition that is in line with the group’s proposed amount.
The case argues Maryland fostered segregation by allowing better-funded academic programs at traditionally white universities to undermine similar ones at the four historically black schools: Coppin State University and Morgan State University in Baltimore, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore.
Last week, nearly 300 students, activists and lawmakers rallied in Annapolis to call on state officials to equitably fund the historically black institutions. The chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus said then that legislators will step up if the governor doesn’t reconsider his settlement offer.
“There will be a bill that we will introduce this upcoming session to settle this thing if he doesn’t want to do it himself," said Del. Darryl Barnes, a Prince George’s County Democrat.
A spokesman for Hogan said Monday night that, under the governor, the state has “provided historically high funding for Maryland’s HBCUs.”
"Governor Hogan has shown real leadership on this issue where others have repeatedly failed over the years,” Michael Ricci wrote in a statement.