UPDATE: Word comes from Fox 16 that federal Judge Price Marshall this afternoon accepted terms of a settlement of the Pulaski desegregation lawsuit. He said it was fair.
His decison from the bench followed a hearing that lasted a bit more than half a day, though two days had been scheduled. A few objections were noted, chiefly from Sherwood. The settlement doesn’t completely end court action. The Pulaski County Special School District and attorneys for black families in the case will continue to work on a separate resolution of some issues remaining for that district, the only one of three not declared “unitary,” or desegregated. It particularly has some facilities issues to address.
The settlement is important primarily for the state, which will see an end to a cumulative $1 billion in spending since 1989 on desegregation assistance as a result of its key role in contributing to segregation in Pulaski County. It will pay $65.8 million a year until 2018. The agreement phases out interdistrict transfer and magnet school programs that have stemmed, at least to some limited degree, resegregation of the three districts.
From earlier today:
John Hofheimer of the Arkansas Leader reported that the federal court hearing on a proposed settlement of the Pulaski desegregation case got underway with objections from Sherwood.
Sherwood officials, who’d like to start a freestanding Sherwood school district apart from the current Pulaski County Special School District, objected to the settlement’s provision that the city couldn’t pursue that course until the district is declared fully desegregated. It separately will have a side understanding from the settlement to continue to cure deficiencies in the litigation, particularly disparate facilities between different regions of the sprawling district. Jacksonville, however, will be allowed to pursue creation of a separate district.
After the objections, statements from lawyers and evidence from parties began. John Walker, attorney for black families, said no settlement could satisfy everyone. Attorney General Dustin McDaniel termed the settlement among long combative parties historic.
Said McDaniel by Twitter after the ruling: “Settlement approved! Case closed!”
PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess and the district’s lawyers was scheduled to open the afternoon session.
Like representatives of the other districts this morning, Guess and perhaps other witnesses were tp discuss whether or not the district will have sufficient funds after state desegregation funding ceases by the 2017-2018 school year.
In the morning session, those who objected to the settlement agreement raised the issues of the phasing out of the M-to-M transfers and magnet school programs and also the alleged unfairness of allowing Jacksonville to pursue a stand-alone district carved from PCSSD, but excluding Sherwood from doing so until the district is declared unitary.
Lawyers and the judge this morning said that deciding on the settlement agreement was a different issue than getting PCSSD unitary, which is being pursued along a different track.
Linda Remele and Beverly Williams challenged the fairness of disallowing Sherwood to proceed with efforts to have its own district, and Sherwood Mayor Virginia Hillman objected as well.
John Walker, attorney for the Joshua Intervenors told the judge that Sherwood had no standing to object to the settlement agreement.