Maryland’s four historically black universities accused state officials in federal court Tuesday of perpetuating racial segregation by underfunding their programs by more than $1 billion over a 19-year period, according to the Baltimore Sun
The lawsuit filed by alumni and students from Morgan State, Coppin State, Bowie State, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore demands that state lawmakers and education officials pay up to help make the schools more competitive with traditional white colleges.
In opening arguments Tuesday in Baltimore’s U.S. District Court, attorney Michael D. Jones, who represents the black schools, declared that “Maryland has not eradicated the vestiges of segregation” because the state failed in its obligation to provide adequate access and opportunities to low-income families.
As a result, he said, libraries, labs, and other programs were severely underfunded while money was wasted on programs at other colleges that duplicated those offered by the state’s predominantly black universities.
Specifically, Jones cited a period from 1990 through 2009 in which he said the black colleges should have received an additional $644 million in general state appropriations and another $450 million to help low-income students.
According to the Sun, the case has drawn the attention nationwide of legal advocates for historically black institutions because of its implications for federal enforcement of laws designed to ensure equality in higher education.
“For Maryland,” the Sun reported, “it revives decades-old questions of whether the state has done enough to support and protect its historically black institutions.”
The state, however, countered in its defense Tuesday that Maryland’s historically black universities have been treated well in recent budgets and that minority students now have more opportunities at all the state’s public colleges than ever before.
”The question is, are there current state policies and practices, traceable to the segregation era, that are continuing to foster segregation in our institutions of public higher education?” the Sun quoted the state’s attorney Craig A. Thompson as saying. “And the answer is no.”
The Sun reported that arguments in the case are expected to continue for about five weeks.
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