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story.lead_photo.caption Attorney General Dustin McDaniel addresses lawmakers Friday beside Assistant Attorney General Scott Richardson. - Photo by Gavin Lesnick

12:17 p.m. UPDATE:

The Arkansas Legislative Council has voted Friday to give Attorney General Dustin McDaniel the authority to settle a longstanding desegregation-aid case under the plan proposed this week if he can bring the Little Rock School District, the Joshua intervenors or both on board before Tuesday night.

McDaniel presented the plan to a subcommittee Thursday, telling them he was ready to proceed with it even without the support of the Joshua intervenors, who represent black students in the three districts.

But on Friday, McDaniel told legislators of a new snag: The Little Rock School Board voted unanimously in favor of the settlement plan in a meeting Thursday night, but they declined to vote on a second motion to go forward with the settlement even if Joshua intervenors don't sign off on it.

"Unfortunately, the signal that that sent to our litigation adversaries was that Little Rock wouldn't proceed without Joshua," he said. "That left Joshua in a position to demand substantial concessions from Little Rock that were not even discussed until yesterday. And with Little Rock and their lawyers not in a position to grant those demands ... we don't have a deal."

McDaniel then asked for the extension until midnight Tuesday to have the Little Rock School Board reconvene and vote on accepting the settlement terms even without Joshua. The Legislative Council's support means McDaniel can present the proposed plan to federal court if that happens before Tuesday.

McDaniel characterized it to legislators as a final chance to "join us in this settlement and proceed with or without Joshua." If Little Rock, the Joshua intervenors or both aren't on board by then, the settlement is dead.

"At that point, my door is closed," McDaniel said. "My phone is turned off. I'm done."

After the hearing, McDaniel said he didn't know why the Little Rock School Board didn't vote on the measure, hasn't spoken to any members and couldn't speak to how likely it is they will pass a new motion.

"It makes sense, I will say that," he said. "It would make sense for them to settle this case because they have the most to lose if the state prevails and terminates funding abruptly."

A December hearing has been scheduled, during which the state will ask a federal judge to immediately end the desegregation payments. McDaniel has said he will proceed to that hearing without a settlement.

McDaniel earlier told lawmakers he requested an extra hour of negotiations Friday morning before the meeting in the hopes the Joshua intervenors were going to sign on to the settlement, which would have made the non-vote irrelevant and would allow all parties to present the plan to a federal judge.

He said he hoped to brief the legislators on the "glorious opportunity for us to stand together."

"I can't do that," McDaniel said. "Joshua refuses to sign on to this agreement at this moment. I do not know why. I was asked for two additional terms this morning. I granted those two additional terms this morning."

EARLIER:

The Arkansas Legislative Council has begun considering a proposed agreement that would phase out longstanding desegregation-aid payments to three Pulaski County school districts.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel began addressing lawmakers about 10:15 a.m. on "the current status, such as it is, of the extraordinary effort to resolve this ongoing litigation," he said.

He called it a "historic milestone to see the three school districts in Pulaski County and the state of Arkansas at a point of agreement on how to terminate this funding, how to terminate this litigation, how to terminate our ongoing hostilities."

McDaniel then launched into an overview of the plan, which he unveiled in a legislative subcommittee meeting Thursday.

The Legislative Council and school boards for the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special school districts have to approve the measure.

Under the proposal, Arkansas would make four more annual payments of nearly $70 million. The districts would give up their right to sue.

A copy of the settlement plan passed out before the meeting had a couple updates from the one McDaniel presented a day earlier. In a section outlining that the state will allow the creation of a Jacksonville/North Pulaski school district, a line was added noting the state will oppose creation of other new school districts from the Pulaski County Special School District's territory until that district "is declared fully unitary and is released from federal court supervision."

Absent an agreement, a federal judge next month will consider the state's request to stop the payments immediately.

Legislators give McDaniel deseg settlement authority

Legislative Council on Friday gave Attorney General Dustin McDaniel authority to settle a longstanding desegregation-aid case if he can get Little Rock School Board on board without the support of Joshua Intervenors by Tuesday night. (By Gavin Lesnick)
[View Full-Size]

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel's opening statement to Legislative Council on the proposed desegregation settlement Friday:

Online reporter Gavin Lesnick contributed to this report.

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Archived Comments

  • drs01
    November 15, 2013 at 11:26 a.m.

    Just go to trial. No intelligent court would agree to continue paying $70 Million a year for something that is a failed system. The LR area schools are not racially balanced and never will be as long as there are three lane highways out of the county, and waiting lists at the private schools that dot the horizon of this city.
    John Walker will never sign off on anything that puts and end to his "cash cow" deseg crapola.

  • TheBatt
    November 15, 2013 at 12:18 p.m.

    The "Joshua" group is nothing but a bunch of legal vultures continuing to rob taxpayers of $millions each year.

    In fact, what exactly has the $hundreds of millions actually bought students? Failing schools, violence in schools? White-flight (and now all races fleeing), and long bus rides?

    It's past time to stop the insanity and cut off the parasite Joshua Interveners. Taxpayers are sick and tired of their extortion!

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