LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - A settlement could come soon regarding desegregation money for public schools. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel presented a settlement to a legislative sub committee on Thursday.
Desegregation funds were distributed to support desegregating the schools of North Little Rock, Little Rock, and Pulaski County. Since 1989, the state has paid nearly $1 billion to the three school districts; Arkansas currently pays about $70 million a year.
In 2011, a judge ruled that Arkansas can end desegregation funding since the schools had successfully become mixed. However, the three school districts opposed the ruling, stating they could not afford to lose the money from the desegregation fund.
In short, the proposed settlement terms include:
"The three school districts will receive three years of payments from the state, which will begin on July 1, 2014 and end on June 30, 2018. They will received a fourth year of payments in the same amount that is restricted to the academic facilities projects as defined in the Partnership Program statute. The amount of annual payments to each district is the same as what was appropriated for the 2013-14 school year. Little Rock will receive approximately $37.3 million each year, North Little Rock $7.6 million and Pulaski County $20.8 million."
To read the entire proposed settlement terms, click here: http://on.kthv.com/1e6echo
McDaniel told the sub committee all parties are on board with the settlement except Joshua Interveners, an advocate group for minority students. McDaniel said the plan could move forward though if the judge decides the payout is the best option and within the boundaries of the law.
"I have believed all along that the risk is truly on the districts and Joshua to not engage in a settlement. Certainty to their students and certainty to their class is a much greater incentive," said McDaniel.
Joshua Intervenor Attorney, Representative John Walker, said he's not convinced the job is finished.
"You have to have something that focuses upon the youngsters and demonstrates that our children can learn and that their needs are being tended to. I know the attorney general wants to have that happen and I believe that Mr. Kimbrell wants to have that happen, but all the things that are in place work to the contrary," said Rep. Walker of Little Rock.
One sticking point within the plan is it will create a Jacksonville School District. Legislators voiced their opinions on either side of that issue.
A Legislative Council will vote on Friday on the settlement.
Timeline of Desegregation Funding Events:
1989: Though a court settlement, Arkansas is required to fund magnet schools, transfers between districts and other programs to support desegregation in the North Little Rock, Pulaski County and Little Rock school districts.
2007: Little Rock School District declared unitary, officially desegregated
2011: North Little Rock School District was declared unitary, officially desegregated
2011: Pulaski County Special School District declared partially unitary
2011: Judge Brian Miller ruled Arkansas can end nearly all desegregation funding to three school districts. The state argued that the desegregation funding was not needed if the districts were already desegregated. The three school districts were opposed to losing the money from desegregation funding.
2013: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel offered $119 million settlement to the three districts. McDaniel's proposal offered $119 million total to the three districts between now and Sept. 1, 2014. The letter said any proposal must go before Legislative Council for consideration by Nov. 15 in advance of a federal court hearing on Dec. 9.