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HBCU Town Hall Lists Education Among Most Critical Civil Rights Issues

An NAACP-sponsored tele-town hall that focused on the underfunding of historically black colleges and universities in Maryland and several other states took place Thursday evening with a coalition of HBCU advocates who have been engaged in a lengthy legal battle over disparities in its higher education system.

The call featured NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson and Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, who said underfunding at the state level threatens the viability of the schools.

“Across the country, HBCUs are facing financial challenges and roadblocks that pose an existential threat,” Johnson said. “Education is one of the most critical civil rights issues we face today, and it is our responsibility to ensure that our HBCUs, which produce some of the foremost African American college graduates, remain viable indefinitely.”

Clarke said her organization has been fighting Maryland for more than a decade to remedy the disparity in academic programs and to secure “full and adequate funding” for the state’s HBCUs. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan proposed $200 million to settle the lawsuit, far less than the $577 million that the coalition proposed, according to the Baltimore Sun.

While federal and state governments have long supported HBCUs, the NAACP says that financial support pales in comparison to predominantly white institutions.

The Education Department has said it plans to use carry-over funding to cover most existing grants, but it will be unable to make some new grants.

April Ryan, CNN political analyst and D.C. bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, moderated the hourlong dial-in discussion.

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