Judge OKs Deal Ending Arkansas Desegregation Aid

by Kelly P. Kissel, The Associated Press  on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014 8:25 am  

Little Rock was the scene of the nation's first major desegregation battle when President Dwight Eisenhower used federal troops to escort nine black schoolchildren into Central High School, the city system's flagship school.

"It's education that comes first, and I think they all have a plan to make that happen."

Parent Markell Foreman Sr., whose son Markell Foreman Jr. is a junior studying chemical engineering in the Little Rock district's magnet school program, said he's not concerned about the districts losing funds, provided they make up without hurting education.

"If they're going to save $3 million, they could probably spend $2 million of that on the kids," Foreman said Monday night.

The elder Foreman, a physician assistant, graduated from Central High in the 1990s and said his son has opportunities through the magnet school program that he didn't have.

"It's a lot more advanced as far as education is concerned," Foreman said.

Despite changes in the school systems over the years, some testimony Monday gave the judge pause — allegations of an achievement gap between black and white students and that the state isn't monitoring to make sure schools achieve racial balance — but said he was satisfied the districts had plans for when the money dried up.

"While it's not the end of the matter ... it takes us very far down the road," Marshall said.

John Walker, a lawyer for black schoolchildren, signed onto the agreement but noted ahead of the hearing that even the districts determined to be desegregated still favor white children. He noted a new high school in predominantly white Maumelle and a new middle school in the Chenal neighborhood of Little Rock — two of the wealthier enclaves in the state — and has said he'll file a new lawsuit if necessary.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel had wanted the payments to stop immediately but agreed to negotiate an end to the payments over time.

"Generations of kids were wronged by the intentional segregation of the races and we know that. That was wrong for all students, black and white," McDaniel said after the settlement was approved.

Gov. Mike Beebe's spokesman, Matt DeCample, also weighed in Monday.

"Obviously it's an historic day in a long running issue that's confronted our state and our education system. If in fact it's the end, I think it's something the governor is gratified to see," DeCample said.



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