Gov. Larry Hogan signed a bill last month that will send nearly $600 million to local HBCUs, as the state of Maryland looks to settle a lengthy legal battle with Black universities.
According to The Baltimore Sun, the legislation will lead to a settlement in a lawsuit filed by the Black institutions and guarantees $577 million in additional funding for the schools over ten years. During a ceremony at Bowie State University, House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson joined the Republican governor in signing the bill into law.
Jones, the first Black woman to serve as a presiding officer in the General Assembly, has been one of the law’s lead endorsers for the past two years. She said she has come from a family full of HBCU graduates and was proud to do her part to get the bill passed.
“We finally got to this day,” she said.
Alumni and supporters from Bowie State, Coppin State, Morgan State and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, previously challenged the state’s treatment of the schools in federal court. They alleged the historically Black schools were put at a disadvantage compared to their more well-resourced, white counterparts.
“I’m pleased to see this fight has finally come to an end,” Morgan State President David Wilson said as the ceremony concluded.
The MSU president indicated that the recognition that HBCUs are a vital part to the state’s education system is just as important as the funding.
“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,” Wilson said. “So, the money is great. We need that, but respect, as well.”
Two years ago, Hogan made what he called a “final offer” of $200 million and met opposition from education advocates and state Democrats who said the offer was “extremely low,” according to The Sun. Given the needs of modern institutions of higher learning, lawyers representing the coalition of HBCUs sent a letter to elected officials proposing that the state pay what was awarded in the recently signed bill.
Last year, Hogan vetoed a bill nearly identical to the one he signed on Wednesday, citing financial risks associated with unknowns due to the coronavirus that began spreading at that time rapidly across the country.
In signing the bill this spring, Hogan hailed the ceremony that followed as a celebration of “a historic bipartisan measure.”
“It was a great cooperation between us and the Republicans and the Democrats in the legislature,” he said.
The Maryland governor heaped criticism on the previous governor, Martin O’Malley, for not resolving the case during his term when was asked why he now supports almost triple the amount of spending, per The Sun.
Democratic leaders of the General Assembly deemed the HBCU issue of such importance they granted it the symbolic designations of “House Bill 1” and “Senate Bill 1” in the most recent legislative session.
Starting in 2023, the bill will send payments of $57.7 million in extra funding each year for 10 years to each of the state’s four historically Black universities, The Sun reports. The influx of money will be used to create and enhance academic programs, bolster its online class offerings, supplement financial aid, build faculty training initiatives, among other academic functions.