Parties involved in the long-running desegregation lawsuit – who have agreed to a settlement – are now working to get the word out and give the public a chance to weigh in. It comes in advance of next month’s “fairness hearing,” where federal U.S. District Judge Price Marshall will listen to any objections.
Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced last month that the state had reached an agreement with the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County Special School Districts to end payments. At a hearing a few days later, Marshall questioning all parties involved and gave the deal an initial approval.
Appearing on Sunday's Capitol View program on KARK, channel 4, Erika Gee, chief of staff with the Attorney General’s office, said notices are being sent out to members of the class and the public "that will let them know what the terms of the settlement are and they'll have an opportunity to object or comment on the terms of the settlement. The judge is holding a hearing in January where he will get more evidence about the terms of the settlement and why the parties believe it's a fair and adequate settlement for everyone involved and also hear objections if there are any from members of the class."
People will have until December 23 to file a written objection and indicate whether they would be willing to speak at the hearing, which is scheduled for Jan. 13 and 14.
The Attorney General's office has posted details of the agreement on its website, which can be found here. Details will also be published in area newspapers.
The deal, which all parties say was painstaking negotiated, calls for the state making payments for three years of about $65 million, with the fourth year focused on work to school facilities. Under the 1989 agreement the state had been making payments to the three districts, which currently total nearly $70 million.
Gee doubts there will be any objections that will derail the agreement.
"I think everyone involved in this case has tried very hard to satisfy the concerns that their constituents had during the process to make sure that when we got to this point everything had been addressed and everything had been resolved to the extent that it's possible to do so," Gee said.