State Sued for Allegedly Underfunding Historically Black Colleges

Errin Haines, Sun News (Macon, Georgia), April 3, 2010

The Georgia NAACP has sued the state, claiming it has systematically underfunded its three public black colleges and threatened their survival as a result.

Gov. Sonny Perdue and Board of Regents Chancellor Errol Davis are also listed as defendants in the lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court. Two students at Savannah State University and Fort Valley State University joined the NAACP as plaintiffs.

Attorney John Clark said the alumni associations of Albany State University, Fort Valley State University and Savannah State University support the legal action.

“Whether there’s money or no money, we get the same answer,” Clark said. “The time is now to address inequities that have persisted. It is never too late to have redress.”

The Legal Defense Coalition for the Preservation of Public HBCUs, which is also supporting the lawsuit, published a 2008 report claiming the state violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 14th Amendment in its treatment of the three colleges.

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According to the report, a lack of state funding has for decades hobbled the institutions and kept them from establishing professional programs on par with their mainstream counterparts in Georgia. As a result of systematic discrimination by the Board of Regents, the state’s public black colleges have had second-class status and operated under de facto segregation.

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The coalition report also said none of Georgia’s state black colleges are classified as research universities or offer professional degree programs and there is a disparity in funding for capital improvement projects at these colleges. The coalition is a nonprofit organization incorporated in 2007 made up of alumni and supporters of Georgia’s public black colleges.

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