by Max Brantley
There's a new proposal to end litigation in the Little Rock School District desegregation case. As you may remember, federal Judge Bill Wilson has declared the case at an end, but the Joshua intervenors, representing black students and parents, have appealed.
Now comes a new settlement proposal from the Joshua intervenors, led by attorney John Walker. It agrees to a finding of unitary, or desegregated, status, if several conditions are met. They include a lengthy commitment on the operation and oversight of the research department that evaluates programs aimed at closing the achievement gap between white and black students. The work of this department was at the core of the final lingering issue in the lawsuit.
The real kickers come toward the end of the agreement. These include the hiring of Walker's long-time assistant, Joy Springer, as an in-house monitor of program assessment. Also it provides for payment of unspecified Joshua expenses up to the date the agreement is signed, at which point legal work will be at an end. HOWEVER: the document says it's expected that the state would then seek to end payments to the district under a 1989 settlement of the state's role in the case.
In the event that the state takes action to reduce the funding level of programs operated by LRSD as a consequence of the 1989 settlement between the parties, Joshua counsel shall be requested to assist the LRSD with any legal action that may be appropriate to maintain desegregation related school funding and that LRSD counsel and Joshua counsel shall work together in that endeavor.
I've just received this. And I don't have time at the moment to call around for comment. But I think it's safe to presume that this idea might find favor with the four-member black majority on the School Board.
This essentially puts a Walker ally in the district's employ for at least three years, commits the district to fighting any state effort to reduce desegregation funding in Little Rock and otherwise continues the Joshua monitoring function in a non-judicially-supervised manner. I don't have enough digits to count the people who will howl about this, if I'm reading correctly.
Chris Heller of the Friday Firm, the school board's lawyer, has already said he thinks the proposal should be rejected.