Wednesday, August 31, 2016

State loses again on attempting to force school transfers, this time in El Dorado

Posted By on Wed, Aug 31, 2016 at 3:36 PM

click to enlarge EL DORADO WINS: In file photo, former El Dorado Superintendent Bob Watson celebrates a high school gym full of college scholarship winners. He testified against the end of the district's exemption from the school transfer law. - W.I. BELL
  • W.I. Bell
  • EL DORADO WINS: In file photo, former El Dorado Superintendent Bob Watson celebrates a high school gym full of college scholarship winners. He testified against the end of the district's exemption from the school transfer law.
Federal Judge Susan Hickey of El Dorado agrees with the El Dorado School District that it should remain under a federal court desegregation order that allows it to claim an exemption from a 2015 school transfer law.

El Dorado tried to use the exemption recently to block transfer of El Dorado district residents to a neighboring majority white school districts.

Over the district's protest, the state Board of Education approved the transfer of an El Dorado student to the mostly white Parkers Chapel School District. The Board ignored the district's insistence that the desegregation order remained in effect, much as the Board had done in the case of a transfer it approved from the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School District to Cabot. Jacksonville appealed that decision and won and the state Board of Education now is looking at paying legal fees in that attempt to ignore the federal court. Attorneys in the El Dorado case will undoubtedly seek fees too. The state also lost an effort to terminate a desegregation settlement agreement among Garland County school districts.

El Dorado sought to overturn the state Board, with both the district and John Walker, attorney for black families, asking the court to overturn the board.

The decision today nullifies the transfer.

El Dorado's 4,522 students are 49.1% black. Parkers Chapel's 787 students are 9.4% black. Neighboring Smackover-Norphlet is 19.5% black.

The judge cited testimony from the current and former El Dorado superintendents, Jim Tucker and Robert Watson, and Pulaski County Superintendent Jerry Guess that the open door to interdistrict transfer provided by a 2015 school transfer law would have a segregative impact on El Dorado.

The judge said the court retained jurisdiction of the 1971 desegregation order and finds that the district's request to still follow it by not participating in transfers was "consistent with the court's previous orders."

She wrote:
EDSD has a continuing constitutional obligation to avoid taking any action the natural and probable consequence of which would be a segregative impact in EDSD.

 Participation in the 2015 School Choice Act would allow inter-district movement of students between EDSD and surrounding districts. If allowed, based on the demographics of EDSD and the surrounding districts, such movement would have a segregative impact in EDSD.

The 2015 School Choice Act recognizes the command articulated in the Supremacy Clause, U.S. CONST., art. VI, cl. 2, that the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land. The 2015 Act provides that “[i]f the provisions of this subchapter conflict with a provision of an enforceable desegregation court order . . . regarding the effects of past racial segregation in student assignment, the provisions of the order . . . shall govern.” 

The 1971 Order is an enforceable desegregation court order regarding the effects of past racial segregation in student assignment. As such, the Order conflicts with participation in the 2015 School Choice Act, and EDSD appropriately declared its conflict with participating in the 2015 Act. That conflict means that EDSD is not a participant in or subject to the school choice transfers contemplated by the 2015 Act.

She voided the state Board order granting a transfer to the McAuliffe family to Parkers Chapel and said the court would retain jurisdiction.

You'd think after three strikeouts — and three batches of attorney fees — the state Board of Education would get the drift. But I think it is on a path, encouraged by the Walton-financed school lobbying machine, to force every district that wants to exempt from the school transfer law to go to federal court to do so, even if it costs the state money.

2016. 62 years after Brown v. Board of Education and the Arkansas government is still trying to promote segregation.  

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