LR School Board -- Walker's 'settlement' | Arkansas Blog

LR School Board -- Walker's 'settlement'



The Little Rock School Board debate starts with the idea of sending lawyer John Walker's proposal to "settle" the desegregation case -- which the district has now won -- by taking his pending appeal to a mediator.

The district's lawyer, Chris Heller, argued strongly against entering a process that, at best, he described as a waste of time. White Board members argue strongly, too, against the idea of a settlement with Walker, and binding the district for years to a process in which he'd become more or less a super school board member with power to represent the interests of black school children. Heller additionally argued that Walker's settlement clearly anticipates a payment to Walker, which courts have made clear isn't necessary.

Board member Michael Daugherty, who pushed the idea, says he isn't confident about the commitment of future boards. He said mediation is worthwhile as long as an appeal is pending because the outcome isn't certain. Heller said there's very little chance that the federal appeals panel will reverse a decision it more or less directed federal Judge Bill Wilson to make in finding the district desegregated.

I think the board can commit to serving kids in the district. It need not contract out that responsibility.

But John Walker raised an interesting point. Does the school district really want total extrication from federal court, including dismissal of the Pulaski County desegregation case? Not, he suggested, if it wants to preserve magnet schools, majority-to-minority transfers and substantial state financial subsidies. He seems to suggest that bargaining with him is essential to winning his advocacy for continued support of the larger countywide desegregation litigation. The district, and Chris Heller, will want Walker on its side when the state comes to end its financial support of desegregation.

At 6:50 p.m., it came to an end. The vote was 4-3 to go to mediation. I don't favor this process. But it's not the end of the world by any means. The real test comes after a federal mediator reviews the arguments and suggests the school district doesn't have much to give up to John Walker by way of concessions. He insisted, by the way, during extended debate that he's seeking primarily court costs, not fees, in the request that the district pay the cost of "settling" the case.

Recess for now. And then comes, I presume, the interim superintendent issue. Though it is not officially on the agenda.



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