Thursday, January 14, 2016

Judge approves Jacksonville school facilities plan

Posted By on Thu, Jan 14, 2016 at 3:45 PM

Saying "we must not let the perfect become the enemy of the good," federal Judge Price Marshall today approved a facilities plan for the new Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District over objections from lawyers for black children who said it would continue substandard elementary schools for black children.

The judge said a new middle school and a new high school in the middle of Jacksonville would serve students of all races and not replicate the decisions made by the Pulaski School District in building fine schools for majority white audiences in Chenal Valley and Maumelle. The Jacksonville district is being carved out of the old Pulaski district and, thus, is bound up in the desegregation case to which the Pulaski district remains a part.

He said two elementary schools to be closed and combined in a new school were  decaying and had declining enrollment while black enrollment in the district was on the rise. He said there was no evidence the new school would be a white flight school and, in any case, the work had to begin somewhere. Federal money may aid that construction, though the judge conceded it wasn't yet a certainty.

The judge noted no plans were in place for replacement of four other schools. To achieve unitary status and be judged desegregated, the district must demonstrate a plan for making all facilities equal and work in good faith to achieve it. He said he wanted a master plan for all facilities by the end of 2016.

The judge commended the Pulaski district for correcting past actions and moving toward correcting deficiencies in achieving unitary status. He said the Jacksonville plan also demonstrated a commitment to equal education opportunities. By providing particulars about the four other schools, he said, "JNSPD will show how the good is a step toward, if not the perfect, the excellent."

The judge overruled objections from the Joshua intervenors, the representatives of black families led by Little Rock lawyer John Walker. He said no evidentiary hearing was needed. He instructed the parties to continue "collaborating" about facilities and staffing issues.

Here's the judge's order.

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