LOW-BALL: Attorney General Dustin McDaniel offered less than it appeared.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and other media adopted Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's
formulation that he had offered $119 million to the three public school districts in Pulaski County to bring conclusive end to the desegregation litigation in Pulaski County.
Dustin McDaniel did no such thing.
You might even say, with some circumstantial evidence, that McDaniel offered a NEGATIVE $21 million.
It's very simple.
* Part of McDaniel's offer is to "allow" the districts to keep the $70 million they have already begun receiving and are scheduled by state law to continue receiving for school year 2013-14. A federal district judge who attempted to stop that money was summarily overturned by the 8th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. A new district judge has indicated there should be a more orderly process to whether the money should stop, beginning with a full hearing of facts in December. That money isn't going away.
* That leaves the $42 million McDaniel has "offered." Here's why that's probably an empty offer. Judge Price Marshall
will hear arguments on school funding in December. It seems unlikely that he will rule from the bench. Sometime toward the end of the school year, as budget work has already begun for the 2014-15 school year, he will rule. Even if he decides support must end, would he decide that it should end completely and unilaterally with scant time for planning the next school year? Interesting question. Would Little Rock appeal a unilateral end to the money? Probably. Would the 8th Circuit stay the ruling on appeal? It has done so previously. All of this says to me that, given the length of time necessary for court to play out, the three Pulaski school districts ALREADY should be able to reasonably expect to get another $70 million in the 2014-15 school year. Thus, they are looking at $140 million for this year and next. McDaniel has "offered" $112 million, of which $70 million is not his to offer or take in the first place.
I'll say this in defense of McDaniel. This is like bargaining to buy a sombrero in a Mexican market. The buyer (McDaniel) started as low as possible after seeing a price tag. The seller (the school districts) started high (with continuation of existing state support for seven years). I think the school district actually started lower than they should have. I think attorney John Walker was right when he said they gave away in bargaining nearly all educational issues (immensely valuable to a number of state interests, particularly to the Billionaire Boys Club, which will cheer an end to legal opposition to proliferation of hurtful charter schools) in return for money. The bargain is the state's, particularly in an end to expensive litigation.
McDaniel will offer more money. He should. Should the districts call it quits if it could know today that it was guaranteed one more full year of existing support ($70 million for 2014-15) to transition to the new day? It's better than what McDaniel offered. I'm saddened, though, that the deal holds peril for magnet schools. They've been successful in retaining white students and successful academically, though they've been plundered by white flight charter schools in recent years.