Maryland Lawmakers to Reintroduce $577 Million Bill to Settle Federal HBCU Discrimination Lawsuit

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A bill designed to settle a landmark discrimination lawsuit between the State of Maryland and stakeholders of its four public historically Black institutions will be reintroduced in the legislature in early 2021.

Maryland Matters reports on the plans to bring a settlement to a 15-year-old federal complaint that the state willfully duplicated programs housed at Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, creating an unconstitutional system of ‘separate but equal’ higher education based upon race and costing the HBCUs millions in funding for academic and campus expansion.

LISTEN: Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones Discusses State's HBCU Lawsuit

The bill, which passed both houses with all but two delegate votes in March, was the first legislative pact of its kind in U.S. history aimed at resolving generational discrimination against public HBCUs.

In May, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the bill citing economic duress associated with recovery from the global coronavirus pandemic. State Senator Charles Sydnor III, a lead advocate for the HBCU Bill and author of the original HBCU settlement legislation while serving as a member of the House of Delegates in 2018, told Maryland Matters the pandemic illustrates just how urgent the need is for HBCU support as a remedy for long-standing harm.

However, Sydnor said he thinks that $577 million over the course of a decade is not that much money in the scheme of the larger state operating budget, which was more than $47 billion this fiscal year. Regardless, the pandemic has already highlighted many racial inequities, so it makes sense for the state to invest in institutions that are preparing students who will work in communities that are most adversely affected by COVID-19, Sydnor said.

In July, lead attorney for the HBCU Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education Michael D. Jones discussed the lawsuit and the nuances of a legislative remedy.