Maryland’s Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous will likely focus more on the historiclly Black college and university (HBCU) advocates’ funding battle with the state as the next leg of their court case approaches. He said he has a plan to stop the unequal treatment that has long affected the state’s HBCUs.
“I’ve put a detailed plan on the table to ensure that we finally treat our state’s HBCUs fairly,” Jealous told the AFRO. “We’ve been underfunding public higher education for too long and we need to reorient our state’s priorities back towards making sure we’re preparing our kids for the workforce. As governor, I’m committed to putting an end to this lawsuit and fulfilling the state’s obligations to our HBCUs.”
The years-long court battle between the historically Black institutions and the State Of Maryland has centered on the investment discrepancy between HBCUs and traditionally white colleges. Advocates, supported by Jealous, have been seeking increased funding, better academic programs and an end to a pattern of segregation that has hurt HBCUs.
Advocates won a victory in 2013: Judge Catherine Blake, of the U.S. District Court of Maryland, found that the state violated the 14th amendment with its long-standing practice of duplicating HBCUs’ academic programs at predominately white schools and not investing in those programs at Black schools. Blake even ruled that an administrator was brought in to help develop a plan for HBCUs to get better academic programs last November. However, the state planned to appeal the ruling.
In January, Gov. Larry Hogan offered $100 million dollar settlement to the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, including a funding split between Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore over a 10-year period. The offer paled in comparison to an estimate by The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Higher Education, representing HBCU advocates, for an investment of up to $2 billion to create adequate academic programming.
The HBCU Matters Coalition was in the final stretch of court-ordered mediation with the state and was expected to host a series of informational events to update the public on the case.