Chris Heller, attorney for the Little Rock School District, has told School Board members that talks today by attorneys for Pulaski school districts and others with the state attorney general's office over a settlement of remaining issues in the desegregation case were "positive and productive but preliminary."
Attorney General Dustin McDaniel also issued a statement and said he'd move quickly to seek responses from state clients.
Heller also distributed a proposed settlement offered by the LRSD on the argument over charter schools. It's thought-provoking (and likely anger-provoking among those who are pushing to make Pulaski County a free-fire zone for unlimited open enrollment charter schools, no matter the harm they might do to existing pockets of excellence in LRSD.)
Among others, Heller proposes that economic diversity, rather than race, become the driving force for magnet school and other enrollment targets, the better to comply with evolving U.S. Supreme Court precedent that says race alone cannot be a determinant of school assignment. Charter schools would become magnet schools, but remain independent and receive state financial support for transportation of low-income students. Future charter schools in Pulaski would have to be aimed solely at lifting lagging students. The proposed settlement says the state would put the A-Plus charter school in Maumelle on probation because, despite its promises to have a diverse student body, it has not achieved a 20 per cent minority enrollment.
The proposal also would require students in charter schools to stay a full semester before transferring and for the charter schools to provide alternative classes for those suspended. This addresses the ability of charter schools to weed out problem students, a luxury not afforded conventional public schools. There's much more, but as Heller says, it's preliminary.
The charter school lobby, led by Luke Gordy, the former state Board of Education member now laboring for the Waltons and others in the push to charterize Pulaski County, isn't likely to applaud. The question is whether the state's obvious abrogation of its agreement not to contribute to segregation in Pulaski County will prompt it to give a little in negotiations with the local school districts. Principle v. politics. It will be interesting to watch.
HELLER MEMO TO SCHOOL BOARD
board members and dr watson -
we met for about two hours this morning at the attorney general's office concerning the attached lrsd settlement proposal. all three school districts and joshua were represented by their lawyers and dr watson was also there for lrsd. the attorney general was accompanied by several lawyers from his office. we reviewed the attached proposals and all parties participated in the ensuing discussion. i would characterize the discussion as positive and productive but preliminary. all parties seemed willing to proceed quickly and in good faith to identify areas of agreement and to attempt to resolve the issues on which we will disagree. we expect to have further discussions by the end of next week. please call if you would like to discuss the settlement proposal or process in more detail.
ATTORNEY GENERAL MCDANIEL'S STATEMENT
Today, our office received a settlement proposal in this case in response to the settlement offer the State proposed last year.
I will move quickly to consult with the Legislature, the Department of Education, community leaders and education advocates across the state in order to gather their input on these proposed settlement terms.
Our mutual desire is to work together in an effort to settle this case once and for all. Everyone at today’s meeting was committed to moving forward to ensure the best quality education possible to the children of these school districts and to try to finally end this decades-long litigation for the state as whole.
I will need time to analyze the offer to fully appreciate what has been requested. I also plan to meet again late next week with these attorneys as we all work in good faith and in a spirit of compromise.