Friday, June 22, 2012

Judge stays school choice ruling

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 5:00 PM

STAYS ORDER: Judge Dawson.
Federal Judge Robert Dawson has stayed his ruling that the Arkansas school choice law unconstitutionally allows race as a decisive factor in transfers. Some 13,000 students were in a quandary about existing and future school assignments because of the ruling.

State Education Tom Kimbrell issued the following statement (I've been informed I should refer to this as a commissioner's memo, because it was an official communication to all school districts):

This afternoon, the federal district court judge presiding over the lawsuit involving the Arkansas Public School Choice Act stayed his June 8, 2012 order. The stay is in effect pending appeals of the June 8, 2012 order to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The stay means that while the appeals are pending, the Arkansas Public School Choice Act (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-206) and the Arkansas Department of Education Rules Governing the Guidelines, Procedures, and Enforcement of the Arkansas Public School Choice Act may once again be relied upon and followed as written. The Arkansas Department of Education will continue to update school district leaders concerning the status of the case.

Malvern families who wanted to leave that district for the virtually all-white Magnet Cove schools sued because their transfer wasn't allowed under the existing rules. Those rules, written as a result of Arkansas's long effort to cure segregative practices, don't allow students to transfer to a district in which their race constitutes a greater percentage than in their resident district.

The judge's brief order said his ruling would be stayed "in all aspects." This reinstates the status quo for current transfers and future transfers, including the old rules that required consideration of segregative effects.

The appeals process isn't speedy. The legislature could come up with a new law in 2013 guided by an expectation Dawson would be upheld. On the other hand, it might not want to open the door to massive transfers on account of race because, well, it wouldn't be a good thing to do.

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