LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel told legislators Tuesday he had received a settlement offer from the Little Rock School District to end state payments to the district in the Pulaski County school desegregation case under terms he said he would not accept.

LITTLE ROCK — Attorney General Dustin McDaniel told legislators Tuesday he had received a settlement offer from the Little Rock School District to end state payments to the district in the Pulaski County school desegregation case under terms he said he would not accept.


"It is, in my opinion, a non-starter," McDaniel told a joint meeting of the House and Senate education committees.


McDaniel said the settlement offer would allow the state to end desegregation payments to the Little Rock district in exchange for certain conditions, including pledges from the state that it not to take over Arkansas’ largest school district for fiscal or academic distress for the next seven years and that it not take any retaliatory action against the district for filing the lawsuit.


"Unless you order me to do it, I will not accept any settlement that includes conditions other than a simple dollar amount, because if there’s any condition in it, the record has proven that this school district will fight us and litigate us about it until the end of time," McDaniel said.


Talking to reporters later, the attorney general said that although he was not interested in accepting the offer, "it is a positive thing that we got any settlement offer, and I do intend to respond to it in good faith."


He noted that it was the first written offer he had received from the district in the case, which is scheduled to go to trial Dec. 9.


Under the settlement offer, if the state agreed to the district’s terms, the district would agree to drop all its claims against the state, including its allegation that the state has violated the terms of a 1989 agreement in the long-running desegregation case in its approval of charter schools in Pulaski County. That claim is before a federal appeals court.


The offer gives the state the choice of paying the district $42.5 million a year for the next seven years or paying a lump sum of $297.3 million no later than June 30, 2015, after which its obligation to pay desegregation funds to the district would end.


Chris Heller, attorney for the district, said in an interview Tuesday that the conditions the district is asking for are "minimal" and should not be an obstacle to a settlement.


"The primary issues in the past that have prevented us from reaching a settlement have been a requirement for continued state funding of magnet schools and the imposition of conditions on charter schools in Pulaski County, and neither one of those things is contained in the current proposal," he said.


Heller said he would await McDaniel’s response to the offer and hoped it would be "the beginning of some potentially productive negotiations."


McDaniel told a judge last year that the state had paid about $1.1 billion to the three school districts in Pulaski County to fund desegregation programs under the 1989 agreement in the case. The state agreed to the payments in acknowledgement of its role in a past history of fostering segregation in the districts.


The attorney general is pushing for an end to the payments, arguing that the North Little Rock and Little Rock school districts have already been declared substantially unitary, or desegregated, and the Pulaski County Special School District has been declared partially unitary.


The declarations mean the districts have eliminated the vestiges of segregation in student assignments and are no longer compelled to racially balance the schools, according to McDaniel.