A Little Rock school settlement: Nice idea, but probably a non-starter | Arkansas Blog

Monday, July 29, 2013

A Little Rock school settlement: Nice idea, but probably a non-starter

Posted By on Mon, Jul 29, 2013 at 6:18 AM

FLOATS SETTLEMENT IDEA: Chris Heller, LR school lawyer.
  • FLOATS SETTLEMENT IDEA: Chris Heller, LR school lawyer.
Cynthia Howell at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette talked with Little Rock School District attorney Chris Heller about his idea for a potential settlement of lingering issues in the Pulaski County school desegregation case as a federal court hearing approaches.

The Little Rock District has always made a good case that the state is bound permanently to support the original magnet schools devised as part of the 1989 school settlement to attract to problematic parts of town students who otherwise might have fled the district, as well as to bring in students from neighboring majority-white districts in North Little Rock and Pulaski County.

The push for charter schools has hurt some of the magnet schools, particularly at the middle school level. North Little Rock is now majority black. Pulaski County has its own set of problems, including a strong movement to separate Jacksonville.

Even some of the proponents of magnet schools, some significant ones I can tell you, have begun rethinking the future of these schools.

So up steps Heller with an idea. If the state only had a rational and fair system of providing support for 1) teachers' health insurance and retirement benefits and 2) school transportation, Little Rock might not need the extra money the state has spent on these two items in support of the magnet school portion of the desegregation lawsuit settlement. (I read between the lines that Little Rock would still get the $20 million or so, but just as part of a statewide formula that lifted all school districts, too, not as desegregation money.)

Nice try. We've written before what a puny amount the state provides generally in support of teacher health insurance — far less than it provides other state employees. Bus support also has been criticized for failing to have a rational relationship to transportation .

Why not equalize those programs statewide, Heller asks. Such a plan would hold Little Rock harmless by providing the same money through a different categorical program rather than desegregation aid. It would, more importantly, help everyone else, including the politically potent charter schools. It's a crafty idea. What school official wouldn't like more financial support for teacher benefits and buses? Where do we sign up?

One tiny problem: Accomplishing this goal would mean additional state spending overall and that would require legislative approval. Even if you took the Little Rock School District precipitating factor out of the equation — and even if it would bring some overdue fairness to teacher benefits — it is hard to see additional spending as a starter in the current political climate. Far more popular is Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's vow to end aid to Little Rock once and and for all. The state has by no means cured its discriminatory acts against Little Rock. It's even set about new ones. But the federal courts these days exhibit little concern with history or present-day reality. Things have changed, Chief Justice John Roberts insists.

PS — Couldn't help but note in another article that new Superintendent Dexter Suggs (still haven't heard back from him about a provocative note he sent to the teachers union president that fell into my hands) proposes to establish a gifted students academy. Sounds a little like a magnet school, but one created without special state assistance.

Tags: , , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store


Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Trump launches attack on 'SOBs' of the NFL

    Donald Trump led a rally for Alabama Senate candidate Luther Strange Friday night and the resulting news coverage (if not in our local newspaper) is giving great attention for his rant against the NFL, including but not limited to players who have made political statements by taking a knee during the National Anthem.
    • Sep 23, 2017
  • Driver killed in crash with Maumelle officer

    Maumelle police report the death early this morning of a motorist who crashed head-on with a Maumelle police officer. The officer and two passengers in the other vehicle were injured.
    • Sep 23, 2017
  • Walmart lawyer picked for U.S. attorney in western Arkansas

    Donald Trump has nominated Duane "Dak" Kees,  director of global ethics and compliance at Walmart Stores, to be U.S. attorney for the western district of Arkansas. It has been filled on an interim basis by a career lawyer in the office.
    • Sep 22, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • ASU to reap $3.69 million from estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn

    Arkansas State University announced today plans for spending an expected $3.69 million gift in the final distribution of the estate of Jim and Wanda Lee Vaughn, who died in 2013 and 2015 respectively.
  • Bad health care bill, again

    Wait! Postpone tax reform and everything else for a while longer because the Senate is going to try to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act one more time before September ends and while it can do it with the votes of only 50 senators.
  • Sex on campus

    Look, the Great Campus Rape Crisis was mainly hype all along. What Vice President Joe Biden described as an epidemic of sexual violence sweeping American college campuses in 2011 was vastly overstated.
  • The inadequate legacy of Brown

    LRSD continues to abdicate its responsibility to educate poor black students.

Most Recent Comments



© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation