by Max Brantley
The Little Rock School Board is nearing a decision on responding to state efforts to reach an agreement on conclusion of the Pulaski desegregation case.
A memo from the district's attorney, Chris Heller, to the School Board outlines some of the major issues remaining beyond a phase-out of financial support, particularly the proliferation of charter schools and the future of magnet schools.
This link takes you to a spreadsheet that shows impact of a $396 million state deseg fiancial settlement over 7 years; a district counterproposal of $430 million; and alternates with and without magnet and majority-to-minority transfer programs.
ALSO: If simply education is your interest in the school district, and not court and legislative entanglements, take a look at the draft outline from an independent study committee of a strategic plan to improve the school district. Terence Bolden and former Sen. Jim Argue co-chair the group. The strategic planning commission will meet from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday in the district's board room.
EMAIL FROM CHRIS HELLER
board members and dr watson -
you will find attached our january 2009 settlement proposal and the state's response dated august 18, 2009. you should have received earlier today spreadsheets which show the financial impact of four possible settlement scenarios. there are also a number of non-financial issues which must be resolved in order to reach a settlement.
the most contentious of the non-financial issues has to do with charter schools. we proposed that the state board would not approve any more open enrollment charter schools in pulaski county without the consent of nlrsd, pcssd and lrsd. the state rejected this proposal and did not offer a compromise. there may be some middle ground, however, such as an agreement that the state board would not approve any new open enrollment charters without imposing conditions designed to limit the negative impact on the pulaski county districts (eg required recruitment of low-achieving students, minimum percentages of free/reduced lunch students and basic/below basic students, required counseling, ale and special education services, and required transportation, at least for poverty students). as things stand, some charter schools will continue to draw more affluent, higher performing students from lrsd leaving lrsd with fewer resources to educate the most challenged students in the city.
another important issue is the voluntary interdistrict movement of students. without such movement, obviously, there can be no interdistrict magnet schools. absent a provision in a settlement agreement, pulaski county students could move among districts only as authorized by state law. the current law authorizing such movement could well be struck down in federal court this spring. the ag's office seems to prefer a statewide solution rather than a separate agreement for pulaski county, but i believe there is room to negotiate on this issue as well.
i believe that if we were able to agree on the larger issues, the state would agree to support an educational service cooperative for the pulaski county districts, to reimburse the districts for their legal fees in accordance with act 395 of 2007, and to not count settlement funds as local revenue. the state has not shown any willingness to compromise regarding fiscal or academic distress, or any language in a settlement which might be read to extend the state's obligations beyond seven years.
please call if you have any questions. see you tomorrow. ch
BOARD MEMBER JODY CARREIRO RESPONDED
What is the importance of some type of final decision on all of these issues by tomorrow night. I fear I don't have time to fully digest and intelligently vote by tomorrow night. Also, I asked the district during our last meeting to give us some idea of how a post-deseg magnet school would be structured and who would be able to attend (yes we might have to negotiate and might even have to change state law), but what is our vision? What is the vision of NLR and PCSSD for these schools?
there is no hard deadline for a response and i don't think it would be a problem to take some more time as long as we are moving toward a decision. i'm not the best person to describe a post-deseg magnet school except to say that nlrsd and pcssd seem to be willing to agree that their students could attend a lrsd magnet school if the law allows such transfers, but they probably would not agree to recruit students or pay for any transportation. ch