Court Discontinues Desegregation Payments to Arkansas Schools

January 14, 2014

A federal judge Monday gave final approval to a settlement that will end decades of state desegregation payments to the three school districts in Pulaski County.

U.S. District Judge Price Marshall concluded that the agreement brokered by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel is “fair, reasonable and adequate.”

“I think this is a day that we can write about in the book, put a circle around and remember that we did something important,” Marshall said at the end of a court hearing he set to hear objections to the historic agreement to end more than 20 years of litigation rooted in the 1957 Little Rock Central High integration crisis.

Since a 1989 settlement in which the state acknowledged a past role in segregation of Little Rock area schools, the state has paid about $1.2 billion to bolster desegregation programs in the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County school districts.

McDaniel told reporters after Marshall’s decision Monday that “it’s hard to put into words how important … this is for this state.”

In November, parties in the case — the three districts and the state, along with lawyers representing black students and school employees — agreed to a proposal to end about $70 million annually in state payments to the three districts after the 2017-18 school year. In 2018-19, the three districts would get another year of payments to be used exclusively for school buildings.

John Walker, attorney for black students and their parents known as the Joshua intervenors since the case began, said the decision was historic because the state in four years will end its paying of $70 million to the districts “to facilitate promoting a better education.”

”My concern has always been whether or not the funds flowed to the benefit of the minority children and my answer is still the same, those funds have not flowed to their benefit,” Walker said. “At least at this point the districts will all have to focus on better educating children on the basis of their resources and they will do so without any assistance from the federal courts.”

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