Arkansas attorney general asks federal court to end state desegregation payments

Arkansas Attorney General (AG) Dustin McDaniel has asked a federal court to terminate the annual payment the state makes to fund desegregation programs in Pulaski County’s three public school districts, reports the Arkansas News. According to the AG’s motion filed in court, the state has paid about $1.1 billion to the districts since the 1989 settlement agreement order was issued.

The payments should be lifted, McDaniel argued, because the North Little Rock and Little Rock school districts have already been declared substantially unitary, or desegregated, and the Pulaski County Special School District has been declared partially unitary.

The declarations mean that “the districts have eliminated the vestiges of segregation in student assignments to the extent practicable and are no longer compelled to racially balance the schools,” the attorney general said in the motion. In December2011, a federal appeals court vacated an order by the district court to end the bulk of the millions of dollars in funding the state provides annually to the three districts.

The federal appeals court ruled that the district court did not make “specific findings of fact” to support its decision, and that a formal hearing on the evidence must be held and notice issued before desegregation obligations can end. Under the 1989 settlement, the state provides funding to the three school districts to help pay for programs designed to promote desegregation.

The 8th Circuit also ordered the state to pay $69,972 to the Little Rock School District, which requested attorney’s fees after it successfully appealed Miller’s ruling ending most of the state’s desegregation payments.

Source: Arkansas News, 3/26/12, By Staff

[Editor's Note: In January 2012, Legal Clips summarized the Eighth Circuit panel's ruling referred to in the above article. The panel, in Little Rock Sch. Dist. v. State of Arkansas, reversed the federal district court’s order ending most of Arkansas’ funding obligations to three school districts under a 1989 desegregation settlement agreement. The panel also reversed the lower court’s partial denial of one school district’s petition for unitary status and affirmed its partial denial of another district's petition for unitary status.]

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