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Financial Settlement Offer from Governor Hogan “A step in the journey” Towards Desegregation, But Missing Key Details

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Months after a federal judge in Maryland issued a landmark remedial order for the State to remedy systemic disparities at its four Historically Black Institutions (HBIs), the office of Governor Larry Hogan responded Wednesday with an initial financial settlement offer to the Legislature’s Black Caucus members.  While the offer may signify an attempt by the State to resolve its decades of mistreatment against students attending Maryland’s HBIs, the proposal does not respond to the detailed remedial plan issued by U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Blake after more than a decade of litigation.

“Historically Black colleges and universities play a critical role in the educational landscape of our country, and with proper support and funding from the state, they can attract racially diverse pools of students,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “The State’s preliminary offer opens the door to a resolution, but real programmatic changes remain critical to placing Maryland on a path to racial desegregation.”

“In higher education, academic programs are magnets; they attract students; they attract funding; they bring prestige,” said Michael D. Jones, a partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP and lead counsel representing Maryland’s HBIs in the case, The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education vs. Maryland Higher Education Commission, along with the Lawyers’ Committee.  “The State’s offer to Black Caucus members is a step in the journey to remedying decades of programmatic disparities at Maryland’s four HBIs.  It is not the end of that journey.”

Maryland has failed to dismantle its practice of duplicating HBI programs at traditionally white institutions, further perpetuating a cycle of segregation at the State’s four HBIs.  In her opinion issued in November, Judge Blake called for the development of new unique and high demand programs at the HBIs, in addition to financial investment.

The letter sent from Governor Hogan’s chief legal counsel to Black Caucus members Wednesday only describes a  $100 million financial settlement for the HBIs, a fraction of what both parties estimated a remedy would cost to repair years of inequity.  Importantly, the letter is silent on programmatic issues that lie at the heart of Judge Blake’s order.

Key components of the Remedial Plan outlined in Judge Blake’s November order include:

  • The development of “new unique and/or high demand programs” at each HBCU that “build on the areas of strength at individual HBIs and take into account where physical building capacity is already in place.”
  • In creating the plan “[t]he Special Master shall use the plaintiffs’ experts’ suggested programmatic niches as a starting point in determining new unique and/or high demand programs to establish at each HBI, particularly where the programmatic niches overlap with suggestions made by the HBIs in their remedial proposals.”
  • “[A]nnual funding [for each HBI] in an amount to be recommended by the Special Master for marketing, student recruitment, financial aid, marketing, and related initiatives over the next five and ten years.”
  • The requirement that any new program proposed by any university be reviewed by the Special Master to ensure that will not harm an HBI.