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School funding expert is Black History Month speaker

  • ‘From Thurmond to Thornton to Kirwan’

    Thursday, February 6, 2020
    Dr. Alvin Thornton

    A career educator whose impressive resume includes helping lay the groundwork on Capitol Hill to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a federal holiday will visit UMES Tuesday, Feb. 18 to serve as a featured speaker for Black History Month. 

    Dr. Alvin Thornton, who worked more than four decades in higher education, will take the stage in the Student Services Center's theatre, where he'll offer reflections on his experiences advocating for Maryland's public schools to receive adequate public funding. The free event starts at 11 a.m. 

    Former Gov. Parris Glendening appointed Thornton in 1999 to be chairman of Maryland's Commission on Education Adequacy, Equity and Excellence, more commonly known as the “Thornton Commission.” 

    The panel's recommendations became the template for funding and holding secondary public schools accountable.  State legislators currently are weighing a new report recommending aggressive spending on public schools that could again change dramatically how they are supported by Maryland taxpayers. 

    Thornton, an Alabama native who attended segregated schools, said “I'm the face of the results of the efforts our nation has made to provide a quality education to all of our children.” 

    “That story, however, never needs to be taken for granted,” he said. “We should never forget the great things we did to bring us to this place as we grapple with the issues we face today.” 

    When Thornton was a member of Morgan State University's faculty in the late 1970s, he took at two-year leave of absence to work for the late Congressman John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, a leading advocate in Congress to recognize Dr. King's historical contributions to the civil rights movement with a federal holiday.

    Thornton moved on to Howard University, where he spent 38 years on the political science faculty and in administration. 

    He has co-authored two books and has been honored for his advocacy by education and civic activist organizations, including a Friend of Education Award from the Maryland State Teachers' Association; the NAACP Image Award (Prince George's County, Md.) and two Fannie Lou Hamer Service Awards (National Conference of Black Political Scientists). 

    In December 2018, Prince George's County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks named Thornton chairman of the county's Board of Education. He previously served on the board in the 1990s, including three terms as its chairman.