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June 06, 2011

LITTLE ROCK - In a court filing by Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, the State today asked a U.S. District Court judge to deny the Little Rock School District's motion for a stay on appeal in the Pulaski County school desegregation case.

McDaniel's response to the school district's motion before Judge Brian S. Miller reaffirms the State's position that the school district can meet its financial obligations without the supplemental desegregation funding that Miller ordered to be discontinued. The response states that the district cannot demonstrate it will suffer irreparable harm if Miller denies a stay of his order while his decision is on appeal.

"The claims that schools may be closed or that teachers may be laid off cause unnecessary fear among school district patrons and, most importantly, aren't supported by the facts in this case," McDaniel said. "The district has the financial ability to provide a quality education to students, and the State will continue to ensure that the ongoing needs of students are our top priority."

According to an Annual Statistical Report prepared by the Department of Education from information provided by the districts, the Little Rock School District spent only 32 percent of its total revenue for classroom instruction in 2009-10. The district routinely maintains savings, or fund balances, of more than $20 million. Thus, the district can meet its financial needs with the loss of desegregation money, the State's response said.

McDaniel said he was encouraged by comments attributed to Little Rock Superintendent Morris Holmes, who said that magnet schools will indeed be open for students in August. He said he was also pleased by news reports that indicate the School Board is preparing its fiscal goals with the loss of desegregation funding in mind (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 5, 2011).

"Parents and teachers have been very afraid about magnet schools closing this fall because of the statements made by the district's lawyers," McDaniel said. "I was very pleased to see Dr. Holmes reaffirm what I have been saying, which is that this ruling should not be viewed as a loss for parents, teachers and students."

According to the State's court filing, the district has long known of the eventuality that its desegregation funding would cease, thus challenging the district's argument that the loss of funding on appeal would constitute an emergency. McDaniel makes clear in the response that the district's fiscal obligations can and will be met.

"Judge Miller's decision allows for the Little Rock School Board to craft a future for a district free of federal court supervision, which is the best scenario for our children," McDaniel said. "The State will uphold its commitment to students. Regardless of whatever budgetary challenges there may be, we recognize it is better to work through those issues in a School Board conference room rather than a courtroom. We ask Judge Miller to deny the motion for stay and allow this case to end."