Lawsuit seeks halt to charter school expansion in Little Rock | Arkansas Blog

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lawsuit seeks halt to charter school expansion in Little Rock

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 12:52 PM

click to enlarge JOHN WALKER: Filing challenges charter school expansion. - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • JOHN WALKER: Filing challenges charter school expansion.
Attorneys in the lawsuit challenging the state takeover of the Little Rock School District asked the federal court today for a restraining order to prevent the state Board of  Education from approving an expansion of the eStem charter school in the Little Rock District.

The lawsuit is scheduled for a hearing Tuesday and Wednesday before Judge Price Marshall. 

John Walker, a state representative and long combatant with the Little Rock District as a civil rights lawyer, filed the lawsuit in October. He represents families in the district and members of the School Board abolished by the takeover. The suit argues that the state continues practices that discriminate against black children. The state has argued that the plaintiffs have no basis for a lawsuit.

The motion filed today was put in motion by the state Board of Education's scheduling of a vote today to reverse an earlier decision to review a staff recommendation in favor of expansion of the eStem and LISA Academy charter schools in Little Rock. Those votes, if successful, would amount to approval of the expansions, the legal filing noted. That meeting set off a furor, however. And early this morning, the rescission votes were dropped from this afternoon's agenda. It will only concern Board member Jay Barth's request for additional information related to the expansion requests. But the final review, and potential approval, still could occur March 31.

The motion said the district can't afford to lose 5,000 students to eStem. Charter school expansions will harm the district in loss of enrollment, increased socioeconomic and racial segregation, a reduced district budget and reduced student achievement, said the request for a restraining order. This specific effort ties in with broader allegations in the lawsuit over the segregating effects of various actions taken regarding the Little Rock School District.

The brief, signed by Shawn Childs and Walker, said, in part, "Irreparable harm will occur to black students within the LRSD if eSTEM is allowed to continue to bleed the district dry of its student populations. If the  expansion is approved, there can be no future judicial action that can reverse the damage to these students who are not approved for eSTEM."

In filing for the temporary restraining order, the attorneys included an affidavit from Karen DeJarnette, a former planning director in the Little Rock District, that expanding the eStem charter as well as other charter schools would adversely affect the Little Rock District budget to such an extent that it would not be able to deliver an equal education to black students.

For still more reading on the arguments in this case: 

It's a broad criticism of the state for putting the "badge of slavery" on plaintiffs. It says, for example, about current political dynamics here:

Politics and education are deemed to be the province of whites. Prejudice against African-Americans is part of the “will to power.”
The brief draws extensively from history — including the racist remarks of former Gov. Jeff Davis — and current events, including the controversy over removal of Black Lives Matter T-shirts at the state black history museum.

Why do these disparate facts matter? They matter because the attitude in Arkansas is and always has been that positions of power and responsibility for decision making is for whites and not African-Americans. This discrimination is a badge of slavery forbidden by the Thirteenth Amendment.

It is strong circumstantial evidence also from which an inference of intent may be drawn also. 
UPDATE: Judge Price Marshall later issued a one-sentence order denying the request for a restraining order as "premature." He denied the motion without prejudice, which means it may be refiled.

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