Arkansas School Districts Reach Desegregation Pact

Nov 14, 2013

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel explains settlement proposal to a legislative committee.
Credit Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

While it’s far from a done deal, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel says the state and three Pulaski County school districts have reached an agreement that would end years of special payments to help desegregate schools.

McDaniel unveiled the new proposal during a legislative subcommittee meeting Thursday, which school boards and the Legislative Council would have to agree to.

“It is a very fair deal for all concerned and in my opinion, that includes Joshua. I hope that they will consent to being a party to it,” McDaniel told reporters after the hearing.

JOHN WALKER: "What we sought to attain has not been attained," he said, referred to the 1989 desegregation settlement.
Credit Brian Chilson / Arkansas Times

The Joshua Interveners include black families in the county represented by state Rep. John Walker, who at this point has not endorsed the agreement and said goals of the 1989 agreement have still not been reached.

Arkansas has spent $1 billion over the years to help schools in the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special School District achieve a racial balance.

“The agreement is complicated in a lot of the mechanics as regard to student transportation, back and forth between the districts and school choice and the various programs, but the broad brush points as it applies to the state of Arkansas is that we would end the payments that we’ve been making for the last 24 years under the 1989 settlement agreement, which are almost $70 million a year,” McDaniel said.

McDaniel speaking to reporters after Thursday's hearing at the state Capitol..
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

If approved, the state would make payments of $65.7 million for the next three years, and in the fourth year, funds would be restricted to improving school facilities.

But some state lawmakers, like Sen. Joyce Elliot, questioned whether this is in the best interests of all children, especially African-Americans and those who live in poverty.

If district leaders approve, the agreement could go before the Legislative Council Friday.

The parties face a Dec. 9 hearing if there's no settlement.

UPDATE: The Boards of the Little Rock and North Little Rock districts approved the details of the agreement in meetings Thursday evening. The plan will be considered by the Arkansas Legislative council Friday morning in Little Rock.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.