Well, OK, a report filed yesterday on the Little Rock School District’s spending of state desegregation settlement money doesn’t come to a verbatim conclusion quite so vivid as my headline, but it’s the functional equivalent.
As I wrote previously, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel wasted $250,000 of taxpayer money on a nakedly political effort to demonize Pulaski County school districts in the name of advancing his political career. He’s joined a long band of politicians who think fighting desegregation in Pulaski County is good politics. He hired an accounting firm to demonstrate the three districts hadn’t properly accounted for spending of court-ordered desegregation money. It was a straw man report. The districts aren’t REQUIRED to report expenditures in the manner McDaniel outlined. Much of the money is specifically given as an incentive for operating programs required by the desegregation plan. Much of it pays for teacher expenses, magnet schools and transportation.
Here’s school attorney Chris Heller’s report to the district in response. He explains that McDaniel is merely try to build a case, under whatever pretext, to end state desegregation aid the schools. A huge legal argument remains — and it should be in Pulaski districts’ favor — on the state’s continuing commitment to magnet schools and transfer programs. He identifies how the state money is spent categorically and he gives McDaniel chapter and verse of how the district spends far more than it receives from the state on specific desegregation activities. Heller noted that the district’s spending had been reviewed by legislative committees in 2007 and 2008 and nothing remiss had been found.
Said Heller in summary: It’s about litigation, not accountability; Little Rock can account for the money it spends; it spends more than the state provides on deseg programs. I believe North Little Rock and Pulaski districts have already essentially made the same arguments. But McDaniel has scored his political points and, undoubtedly will continue to score them. Massive resistance has never stopped being a guiding principle for many Arkansas politicians since 1957. See the state support of desegregation-harming charter schools in Pulaski County for another recent case in point.
SPEAKING OF LITTLE ROCK SCHOOLS: The School Board last night dropped a Memphis contender from a list of finalists for the superintendent’s job and added former deputy superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh, apparently restoring the list of three finalists recommended by the search firm. Three board members didn’t want to add Hattabaugh to the list, a problematic start for anyone hoping for a consensus pick. Though Hattabaugh was a part of the ill-fated Roy Brooks era, I’ve had a great number of people who’ve sung his praises and I, for one, would like to hear what he has to say in public interviews. He’s been in a No. 2 job at a big and well-thought-of school district in Charlotte, N.C. Irving Hamer, the Memphis dropout, had given me pause, not the least for a hop-scotching job record and many points of past controversy.