LRSD offer to end desegregation payments unacceptable, McDaniel says

LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel told legislators Tuesday he had received a settlement offer from the Little Rock School District to end state payments to the district in the Pulaski County school desegregation case under terms he said he would not accept.

“It is, in my opinion, a non-starter,” McDaniel told a joint meeting of the House and Senate education committees.

McDaniel said the settlement offer would allow the state to end desegregation payments to the Little Rock district in exchange for certain conditions, including a pledge from the state not to take over Arkansas’ largest school district for fiscal or academic distress for the next seven years or take any retaliatory action against the district.

“Unless you order me to do it, I will not accept any settlement that includes conditions other than a simple dollar amount, because if there’s any condition in it, the record has proven that this school district will fight us and litigate us about it until the end of time,” McDaniel said.

Talking to reporters later, the attorney general said that although he was not interested in accepting the offer, “it is a positive thing that we got a settlement offer.”

He noted that it was the first written offer he had received from the district.

McDaniel told a judge last year that the state had paid about $1.1 billion to the three school districts in Pulaski County to fund desegregation programs under a 1989 agreement in the long-running school desegregation case. The state agreed to the payments in acknowledgement of its role in fostering segregation in the districts.

The attorney general is pushing for an end to the payments, arguing that the North Little Rock and Little Rock school districts have already been declared substantially unitary, or desegregated, and the Pulaski County Special School District has been declared partially unitary.

The declarations mean the districts have eliminated the vestiges of segregation in student assignments and are no longer compelled to racially balance the schools, according to McDaniel.