Attorney General Dustin McDaniel
, declaring today a "great day for Arkansas," announced formally that all parties to the Pulaski County school desegregation case had signed on to the terms of a settlement agreement. McDaniel warned, however, that "it's not over until it's over," and said it was up to federal Judge D. Price Marshall
to approve the terms.
McDaniel asked Marshall for a hearing today at 1:30 p.m. to present the settlement to the court and ask how to proceed. He said he did not expect Marshall to rule today on the agreement. It's likely the judge will ask to hear from all parties. Marshall set aside two weeks to hear the case starting Dec. 9.
Should the judge not approve the settlement, McDaniel said, the state "will ask for an immediate ending of [state] funding" and said that if the Little Rock and North Little Rock districts suffer the financial distress they say they'll suffer without the four years additional dollars the state could take over the districts. "We don't want to have to take them over," he said.
McDaniel praised assistant AG Scott Richardson
for his years of work "taking my vision" to end the case to countless meetings, and said that without Richards "was the reason we are here today." McDaniel said it was his goal in office to "get out of Lakeview [school funding case], stay out of Lakeview and bring a tangible end" to the Pulaski County desegregation case. McDaniel said the Pulaski County case started 50 years ago "when nine bold African American students walked into Central High" and he praised John Walker,
attorney for the Joshua intervenors who finally agreed to the settlement last night, saying "he never wavered in doing what he believes is right for African American students."
The Little Rock School District sued the state and the other two school districts in Pulaski County 1982 saying their actions had contributed to segregation in the LRSD. The Joshua intervenors entered the case quickly. McDaniel said the settlement agreements in 1989 brought "a lot of successes" to the districts and that "every student in Arkansas deserves a level playing field" in getting an education.
McDaniel said that Jacksonville, now in the Pulaski County Special School District, can begin the process to create a separate school district immediately. The terms of the settlement do not allow Maumelle and Sherwood, should they desire to sever themselves from the PCSSD, to act until the four-year settlement
payments to the district expire in 2018.