By Michael D. Jones, David Burton, and Earl S. Richardson
Cascading demands for racial justice and equal rights unleashed by the murder of George Floyd led Maryland’s Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford to assert, in a June 3, Washington Post article, that America has reached “a turning point” in addressing racism and inequality in all American institutions.
In his own state, this must include vindicating the constitutional rights of students at the state’s historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) that suffer academic disparities described by Judge Catherine C. Blake as “worse than Mississippi of the 1970s.”
For the past 14 years, HBCU students, faculty and alumni have marched, protested and litigated for justice and equality. Six years ago, Judge Blake ruled against the state, noting that “Maryland had a shameful history of de jure segregation throughout much of the past century. Public higher education opportunities for African Americans were either non-existent or decidedly inferior to the opportunities afforded to white citizens.”
Indeed, the state’s own documents show that it deliberately set up its four black schools to be “inferior in every aspect of their operation.” And as the court noted, Maryland’s own reports show that “the contrast between the amounts of money received by the two racial groups would show, if possible of computation, an enormous differential in favor of the white race.”
Three years ago, Judge Blake ordered the state to provide additional funding for expanded academic programs, scholarships, marketing, and financial aid. But the governor failed to fund the court’s remedial order, and students, faculty and alumni continued to march, protest and litigate. Judges on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals encouraged the legislature to resolve the case.
And they stepped in. Under the leadership of the state’s first African American Speaker, Adrienne Jones, the legislature overwhelmingly passed an HBCU Equity Bill (129-2 in the House 47-0 in the Senate) that would have appropriated out of the state’s $47.9 billion budget, $57.7 million a year for ten years.
Legislators expressed hope that the governor would see the connection between racial disparities in the state and weak support for HBCUs. Said Senate Sponsor Charles Sydnor: “Our HBCU bill will provide critical resources to our HBCU pre-med programs, as well as Morgan’s public health program, Coppin’s and Bowie’s nursing programs and the pharmacy and other health-related fields at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. All of these academic programs are critically important to addressing the underlying health disparities laid bare by the COVID-19 crisis.”
Similarly, legislators recognized that properly funded black colleges can help address the wealth and income disparities in Maryland by spurring economic development in the communities in which they are located, since, as a United Negro College Fund report notes, every dollar in initial spending by Maryland’s HBCUs generates $1.52 in initial and successive spending in their communities.
But despite the court order and legislative support, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the HBCU Equity Bill, even while allowing millions to expand thoroughbred racing. A spokesman for the racing industry proclaimed: “This is truly a defining moment in the history of the Maryland thoroughbred racing industry and the state.” Maybe.
The real “defining moment” is the quest for justice and equality for black people and black institutions. Even before the murder of George Floyd and the quest for racial justice was unleashed, the Maryland legislature recognized that funding the court-ordered remedy would remove the stain of being “worse than Mississippi”, help address racial health and wealth disparities in the state and promote economic development in black communities — a true win-win.
An economic downturn that disproportionately hurts black communities is precisely the time to help black colleges out of the hole the state dug. Instead, the governor cut the lifeline extended by the legislators. Even Mississippi recognized that economic downturns are no excuse for ducking constitutional responsibilities. It began its larger HBCU settlement payments during the 2001 recession and continued them during the Great Recession of 2008-09.
The legislature should continue to stay on the right side of history by overriding the governor’s veto. The time for lip service is past. And 14 years of marching, protesting and litigating is enough. It is time to provide justice for Maryland’s HBCUs, to show that: #BlackLivesMatter.
Michael D. Jones is a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and executive committee member of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; David Burton is president for the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education; Earl Richardson is president emeritus and distinguished professor and research associate at Morgan State University.
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MD HBCU Advocates Respond to Hogan Veto of Funding Bill for Black Universities
For more information:
"It is most unfortunate that the state still refuses to acknowledge the order from Federal Judge Catherine Blake to fund unique, high demand academic programs, recruiting, and scholarships in response to the HBCU Coalition representing the extraordinary students, faculty, and alumni of the four Maryland HBCUs, and accept full responsibility for the circumstances underlying that order.
Unlike the Kirwan bill, the HBCU funding bill is an attempt to settle a 14-year long lawsuit in which the State of Maryland has been found liable for un-Constitutional, racist, and discriminatory practices that created and sustained a separate and unequal higher education system.
By this veto, the governor refuses to resolve this long-standing case, endorses, and continues the hostile position which caused it to be filed. And although we are in the midst of a health and economic crisis, we cannot lose sight of the crisis that the four Maryland HBCUs have been forced to endure for generations.
The unanimous vote in the Senate and near-unanimous vote in the House of Delegates during the 2020 legislative session represents the clear will of the people of Maryland to end the unconstitutional dual-system of higher education and to ensure equal educational opportunities for all Marylanders.
The time is now for one higher education system to serve one richly diverse Maryland. The Maryland HBCU Advocates will continue to support the work of the Coalition as it seeks to end the duplication of programs that have resulted in a separate and unequal higher education system in Maryland.
The Maryland HBCU Advocates will continue to pursue all avenues to successfully address a remedy to this longstanding lawsuit and to ensure the continued viability of all four Maryland HBCUs."
Sharon Y. Blake, spokesperson
Maryland HBCU Advocates
# # #
Maryland HBCU Advocates
#SaveMDHBCUs | #FinishTheFight
Hogan vetoes funding for Maryland schools and HBCUs
Governor cites the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for his vetoes
Above: Gov. Larry Hogan addresses the General Assembly in 2017. (Capital News Service)
After saying he wouldn’t increase spending during the economic downturn accompanying the coronavirus, Gov. Larry Hogan today vetoed two bills aimed at educational equity.
Most notably, he vetoed HB1300, the landmark legislation which would have funded the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.
Among those recommendations were expanded prekindergarten instruction, higher teacher pay, improved college-prep, and greater state support for schools with concentrations of children from low-income families.
The governor also vetoed HB1260, which gives the state’s four historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) about $580 million by 2031. Two of those schools, Morgan State University and Coppin State University, are located in Baltimore.
The vetoed HBCU bill would help settle a bitter 2006 federal lawsuit in which the state was accused of undermining black colleges and universities by creating duplicate academic programs at traditionally white schools. Last fall, Hogan made a “final offer” of $200 million to settle the lawsuit, which was far less than the coalition demanded.
Hogan cited the “economic turmoil” arising from the coronavirus as the reason for vetoing the Kirwan and HBCU legislation.
“The economic fallout from this pandemic simply makes it impossible to fund any new programs, impose any new tax hikes, nor adopt any legislation having any significant fiscal impact, regardless of the merits of the legislation,” he wrote in a letter to Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County).
Education advocates across the state, including William “Brit” Kirwan, chair and namesake of the commission, denounced Hogan’s veto of the school funding bill.
Many noted that the bill allocates only $37 million to Maryland’s public schools in the next fiscal year, then ramps up spending to an estimated total of $4 billion by FY2025.
Kirwan said he was disappointed by Hogan’s “shortsighted” and “unfortunate” decision. He pointed to a mechanism in the bill that caps spending during economic downturns and could have been applied to the present moment.
“The legislature had the foresight to suspend funding for it during the kind of fiscal downturn we are experiencing at the moment,” he stated.
“If anything, the disparate impact of Covid-19 on low-income and minority communities only reinforces the need and moral imperative for the provisions in the bill,” added Kirwan, who served as chancellor of the University System of Maryland from 2002 to 2015.
Others who spoke out today wanted to do more than bemoan Hogan’s veto – they wanted to fight it.
Multiple stakeholders in Kirwan bill demanded an override of the Republican governor’s veto, which the Democratic majority in the General Assembly could attempt, either at a special session this year or at the next regular session in January.
Other statements on the Kirwan veto:
• Maryland State Education Association President Cheryl Bolt: “Our schools have been underfunded for years and recent weeks have only magnified the existing inequities that our students face every day that challenge their ability to succeed in school.”
• ACLU of Maryland: “Gov. Larry Hogan’s veto means that tens of thousands of children will continue to attend substandard schools that do not meet the state’s constitutional guarantee of a ‘thorough and efficient’ education.”
• Joe Francaviglia, executive director of Strong Schools Maryland: “Politics is not a good enough reason to deny kids of desperately needed resources and future opportunities.”
• Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott: “The children of Baltimore, tomorrow’s future leaders, were depending on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to have schools that are equitably funded and be trained for the jobs of tomorrow.”
• Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson: “The governor had a choice today to reject traditional politics and work together to adjust shared visions and build a strong future after this crisis. Instead, he chose to foreclose hope, leaving Maryland families and historically black colleges and universities with an open question for the future.”
• Senator Paul Pinsky (D-Prince George’s): “Gov. Hogan shifted from crisis management to broad governing. Where he succeeded in the former, he’s failed miserably in the latter. He vetoed: Kirwan, failing our children; support for historic black colleges; and a pesticide ban that harms children. No vision, no belief system.”