Attorney John Walker (Photo: Steve Payne, THV11)
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federal judge has approved a settlement allowing the state of Arkansas to stop making payments to three Little Rock-area school districts to aid their desegregation efforts.
U.S. District Judge Price Marshall signed off on the pact Monday after hearing several hours of testimony from opponents of the deal and lawyers for the signees: the state, the districts and black schoolchildren. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel called the day monumental.
"Good people have worked very, very hard to bring about an end to this litigation and it is time - as I told the judge at the end of the hearing to put this case in the books and move on with being partners in education rather than adversaries in court," said McDaniel.
Since 1989, the state has given the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts more than $1 billion, total, above their regular state appropriations.
The money goes toward magnet schools and transporting students from districts where they'd be in the majority to those where they'd be in the minority.
The state will continue making payments through the 2017 fiscal year. In the settlement - the districts receive about 70 million collectively per year - for the next four years. Joshua Intervenors, a minority student advocate group - agreed to ending the payments - but are not pleased with the results.
"Those funds have not flowed for their benefit and the situation is still the same as it was many years ago when we began," said John Walker, attorney for Joshua Intervenors.
Sherwood leaders opposed language in the agreement that would not allow for other districts to be created until PCSSD reaches unitary status.
"They're allowing the Jacksonville School District to detach while Pulaski County Special School District has not achieved their unitary status and we found that discriminatory to allow one territory to do so and not the Sherwood territory," said Beverly Williams, co-chair for the Sherwood Education Foundation.
The judge overruled Sherwood's objection citing evidence that the creation of the Jacksonville district would help PCSSD achieve unitary status and the Sherwood party was not part of the class involved in this case.
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