Gov. Larry Hogan met with members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland on Thursday to discuss a settlement to a long-running dispute over the state's treatment of its historically black colleges, as well as other priorities of the caucus this legislative session.
Hogan said after the meeting that HBCUs have his strong support. The governor told reporters the state has "drastically increased funding for all HBCUs, now with this recent budget, five years in a row — far more than the previous administration, which I think surprised the black caucus members that we talked to this morning."
The Hogan administration notes $1.15 billion in state funds has been invested in Maryland's four historically black colleges since the governor entered office in 2015. Hogan said the state will continue to work on resolving the matter that is now in mediation in a federal court case.
"My desire is to resolve it," Hogan, a Republican, said. "We do have offers on the table. We're hoping that both parties can reach agreement, but we're under court order to not discuss those mediations or those offers, so I can't get into much detail other than that."
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Members of the caucus said a proposed settlement last year by the governor of $100 million over 10 years is inadequate. Del. Jay Walker, a caucus member who attended the meeting, pointed to previous settlements in other states that were significantly larger.
"To offer $100 million over 10 years, at $10 million a year, you're not really trying to make a difference, so I don't think we're close to the settlement," said Walker, a Prince George's County Democrat. "You always hear the statement, 'I've offered more than any other governor before in the past.' Well, I remember when I was here we had to deal with a deficit, a financial crisis, and there was no money there to be offered during the (Gov. Martin) O'Malley administration, so if you really want to take a leadership role, do the right thing by HBCUs in the state."
Del. Darryl Barnes, a Prince George's County Democrat who chairs the caucus, told reporters after the breakfast meeting at the governor's residence that the caucus is focusing on the issue to make sure "we settle this lawsuit in a way that's beneficial to all."
"We didn't discuss a figure per se, but we did let him know where we stood on ensuring that the settlement gets settled fast," Barnes said.
Earlier this year, a federal appeals court ordered a fourth attempt at mediation in the 12-year-old dispute. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals set an April 30 deadline to reach a mediated settlement and ordered monthly progress reports from the mediator. The colleges say the state underfunded them while developing programs at traditionally white schools that drain prospective students away.
Maryland's four historically black colleges are Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.