In a letter addressed to the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland Chairwoman Cheryl Glenn this week, Gov. Larry Hogan signaled a willingness to resolve the decade-long Maryland HBCU Equity lawsuit. Hogan offered Maryland’s HBCU’s up to $100 million over 10 years. “We are happy that the governor is in the frame of mind to resolve this lawsuit,” Glenn said.
The Baltimore Democrat said she does not see the monetary amount offered by the governor as an end but instead as a possible beginning of a conversation to resolve the impasse between the state and Maryland’s four HBCU’s.
“This is not a settlement but the start of a process and, of course, this is an election year,” Glenn said, suggesting that Hogan wants to avoid the bad blood that would result from a formal appeal of the November remedial ruling in favor of plaintiffs for Maryland’s HBCU’s.
Other lawmakers and HBCU advocates are not at all buying what the governor is selling.
“That equates to 2.5 million per year over the next 10 years for each of the 4 HBCU institutions. That’s like throwing peanuts at a very gigantic problem,” Del. Nick Mosby told members of the House of Delegates Appropriations Committee this week.
The House Appropriations Committee is currently considering HB 450, the Britt-Rawlings-HBI Comparability Program, the state funding program designed to create fiscal equity between the state’s four HBCU’s and traditionally White campuses. HB 450 is a companion bill for SB 252, with the same name, introduced recently in the Maryland State Senate by Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-Balt.)
Mosby made it clear that legislation proposed in the House of Delegates and State Senate is not meant to replace the Maryland HBCU Equity Trial’s remedial ruling handed down in November by Judge Catherine E. Blake in U.S. District Court.
Blake ordered the appointment of a special master to create unique high-demand programs at each of the state’s HBCU’s and required the state system of higher education to eliminate the discriminatory system of program duplication.
Appropriations Committee members were eager to learn how HBCU’s would use additional funding.
“In terms of where the funding would be spent, we have very high-end expensive programs that are currently underfunded,” Juliette Bell, president, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, explained to the Appropriations Committee.
Bell wouldn’t comment on the governor’s proposed offer of $100 million to settle the HBCU lawsuit. But David Burton, lead plaintiff for the Maryland HBCU Coalition, had no problems responding to Hogan’s gesture.
In an interview with the AFRO, Burton said the governor’s offer of $100 million was a “slap in the face” and not a sincere gesture.
“$100 million is just the beginning of a long conversation. It’s nowhere near the requisite amount to meet what is needed to restore HBCU’s to a position of parity as required in the judge’s ruling,” Burton said.
By comparison, the landmark “Ayers” Higher Education desegregation settlement in 2002 required the state of Mississippi to pay $500 million for new programs, facilities and student recruitment at Jackson State, Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley, the state’s three public universities.
In the governor’s offer letter, addressed to Del. Cheryl Glenn, Hogan’s Chief Counsel Robert F. Scholz says the $100 million offer “represents a serious, multi-year commitment which we believe goes well beyond what the law requires.”
“There should not be any signaling at any level from anyone that the governor’s proposal addresses the long-term remedies that will be necessary to resolve this long-standing issue,” said Burton. There is no easy way out of this.”
“$100 million dollars does not meet the standard. If you read Judge Blake’s remedial order closely, it will take billions, not millions of dollars over years to correct the years of discrimination faced by Maryland’s HBCU’s,” Burton said.