McDaniel, Beebe back slashing of LR school aid | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, May 26, 2011

McDaniel, Beebe back slashing of LR school aid

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2011 at 4:53 PM

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel to Little Rock school students: Screw you. I'm running for governor in two years. UPDATE: Gov. Mike Beebe says screw 'em, too.

In other words, they have told the federal court they support an immediate end to state desegregation aid to Pulaski County school districts, as ordered by federal Judge Brian Miller. They don't care that the order was made without a hearing and without evidence. They don't care what types of school districts will be left after an immediate loss of $70 million, $38 million alone in Little rock.

McDaniel says the schools here get more money than other districts, so they can endure a 10 percent budget cut after contracts have been signed and less than three months before classes begin. He's wrong. But he knows he'll lose not a vote anywhere except in Pulaski County for demagoguing the Little Rock school case. He thinks the districts are fat with reserves. Right. Take Little Rock's $21 million in reserves — leaving not a dime for fallen tree damage, much less a tornado — and they must only cut another $17 million, maybe 250 school teachers.

McDaniel has almost managed to make Mike Ross look good.

If McDaniel read the Little Rock school brief on this issue, he shows no signs of learning anything from it. He doesn't understand or want to acknowledge that the state made an open-ended promise to pay for magnet schools and interdistrict transfers in 1989 — transportation for 5,000 kids is expensive for one thing. Why? Because the state has promoted segregation here, in housing and schools, for decades. With McDaniel's advocacy, the state is back at it, encouraging white majority charter schools in white neighborhoods and encouraging white flight in multiple other ways.

Funny. I had thought the state might at least agree to a stay so the issue could be properly argued. It would buy the districts a little time to work out a phase-out of the aid.

There's so much misleading about McDaniel's and the governor's demagoguery. They emphasize the higher amount spent in Little Rock, as if the additonal $2,000 per student was all state money. A huge portion is supplied by Little Rock taxpayers, and their high 65-mill school tax rate, to provide expanded programs. Yes, we have more money here because we tax ourselves more and have greater property wealth. In 2009-10, when the district got $213 million in conventional state and local funding, $151 million of it, or about 75 percent, came FROM LOCAL TAXPAYERS NOT THE STATE. Look it up yourself.

The magnet schools, in addition to requiring expensive interdistrict busing, were established with extra staffing and specialists so they would be, yes, magnets to children who otherwise might go to private schools or flee to suburbs. They've worked. No more.

The governor's spokesman insists the governor is still concerned about "jerking the rug" from under kids in the school year not far off. He really believes the same quality programs can be provided with $38 million less money. I'd like to see the state take a 10 percent percent budget cut with two months' notice. The governor's spokesman insists there's still room to talk, that the Little Rock motion for a stay is an all-or-nothing situation. I say that's bull.

Indeed, the schools can be run with far less money. But they will be far diminished schools. If the Beebe/McDaniel argument stands, they'll turbocharge the transition of Little Rock to a school district like those elsewhere in the South, all minorities and with the meager public support that usually ensues

McDaniel's statement, which, I've confirmed, the governor joins:

LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel today filed the State’s response with the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in opposition to the Little Rock School District’s Emergency Motion for a Stay Pending Appeal and Expedited Appeal and a Temporary Stay of U.S. District Court Judge Brian Miller’s decision in the desegregation case.

The Little Rock School District receives a per pupil per year average of $9,396.52 in state and local funding, which is almost $2,000 more per student than the state average of $7,489.44. This amount for Little Rock students does not include any of the desegregation settlement payments, therefore the State is confident that student needs can be met with existing resources.

“The State is focused on the needs of the students, parents and teachers in the Little Rock School District, but those needs are better served out of court. Judge Miller took an historic step in the right direction. He recognized that we must change a broken system to better serve our children,” McDaniel said.

“The people of Little Rock and the State as a whole believe that these districts need to end this litigation, not continue to drag it out. With more than $2,000 more per student per year than the average school district in Arkansas, and with more than $21 million in cash in the bank, it is wrong to suggest that schools will be forced to close, that mass layoffs of teachers will occur, or that the plans of the students and their parents for the next school year will be disrupted without another court order,” he said, adding, “With a budget of roughly a quarter-billion dollars per year, the Little Rock School District has the resources necessary to provide a quality education to all of its students without ongoing litigation.”

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