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Financial Settlement With State Is Reached In Lengthy Little Rock Desegregation Suit

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The major parties in the Little Rock, Ark., school-desegregation case have reached agreement on the last significant legal issue in the case, which could bring to an end nearly 30 years of litigation on these issues, school officials said last week.

The agreement, however, does not settle the fate of the district's long-range desegregation plan, which is expected to be ruled on shortly.

In the settlement, the state agreed to pay $104 million over 10 years to encourage desegregation in Little Rock and two adjoining districts.

The bulk of the money--$59.1 million--would fund educational enhancements and staff training in the Little Rock school district, which filed the lawsuit against the state and its neighboring districts.

The district also expects to receive about $30 million over 10 years as a result of the settlement of a long-standing dispute over the state's application of its minimum-foundation formula, according to George D. Cannon, the district's superintendent.

An additional $20-million loan could be forgiven by the state if the district succeeds in reducing the disparity between white and black students' test scores, he said.

Both the North Little Rock and Pulaski County school districts would receive smaller amounts for desegregation-related programs.

The settlement must be formally approved by all parties to the case, including U.S. District Judge Henry Woods. In addition, the legislature will have to agree to provide the funds.

Judge Woods has yet to rule on the district's long-range desegregation plan, which calls for dismantling a two-year-old "controlled choice plan" and replacing it with a more traditional voluntary desegregation plan. Under the proposed plan, certain schools in minority neighborhoods would receive nearly twice the resources available to other schools in the district.

Mr. Cannon said he was "confident" that the settlements would win the necessary approvals.

"Much of the energies of my personnel were consumed in this effort,'' he said. "Now we can concentrate on implementing the plan."--ws

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