The three Pulaski County school districts will receive three years’ worth of desegregation payments, plus another year of equal payments for academic facilities only, under an agreement reached between Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office and the school districts, McDaniel told a legislative panel Thursday.
McDaniel told the Joint Subcommittee on Desegregation Litigation Oversight that the agreement has not been finalized. However, he did express confidence that the districts’ school boards would agree to the deal.
“Make no mistake,” he said. “This is not a done deal yet. But we are at an historic milestone.”
The Legislative Council, which is meeting Friday, must approve of the deal. The subcommittee was required by law to give advice on the potential settlement.
The state would continue making the same payments for three years that it made during the 2013-14 school year with no inflationary increase: $37.3 million for Little Rock; $20.8 million for Pulaski County; and $7.6 million for North Little Rock. They will receive those same amounts during a fourth year, but the money would be restricted to academic facilities projects.
Under the terms of the agreement, the state would be released from any desegregation claims. The districts also agree that the state may authorize the creation of a separate Jacksonville School District. Currently, Jacksonville students are part of the sprawling Pulaski County district, and members of that community and the district are working toward a split. Each of the three school districts can be reimbursed up to $250,000 in legal fees.
The original desegregation agreement was reached in 1989. McDaniel told legislators that, since then, the state has paid more than a billion dollars to the districts to addresses the vestiges of segregation.
While all three districts and the state tentatively are agreeable to the settlement, a separate agreement has not been reached between Pulaski County and the Joshua Intervenors, the group that advocates for African-American students that is represented by attorney John Walker, a state representative from Little Rock. McDaniel said he did not believe those two parties must agree to a deal before the state’s deal can take effect.
McDaniel expressed confidence that the state would have won its case. Hearings are scheduled to begin in Dec. 9 in U.S. District Judge Price Marshall’s court. However, McDaniel said victory in court was not assured and that the settlement offered certainty for everyone concerned.
Talk Business will update this story later today.