Arkansas County Still Decides School Choice for Children Based on Race

classroom of elementary school students
CDC/Pexels

School districts in Garland County, Arkansas, are still required to comply with a 1989 law that determines parent choice of district based on whether a child’s race in the desired district exceeds the percentage in the family’s resident district.

In August 1989, a settlement was reached between the NAACP and a class representing “black patrons and students,” and the Garland County school districts, the county board of education, and the state board of education. The NAACP and the class of black individuals filed a federal lawsuit seeking to consolidate all Garland County public school districts.

According to the decree from the Garland County School Desegregation Case, sent to Breitbart News by Kimberly Mundell, MPA, director of communications at the Arkansas Department of Education, school districts in the county, including the Jessieville School District mentioned in the tweet above, agreed to implement the School Choice Act.

Mundell told Breitbart News that, while the Act has been repealed throughout most of Arkansas, the law “still must be followed by all school districts in Garland County due to a requirement in the consent decree,” in Davis v. Hot Springs School District, Case No. 89-6088, in U.S. District Court for the Western Division of Arkansas.

“This settlement is contingent upon a final determination that the settlement is binding upon the classes of all current, past and future black students, their parents and next friends in Garland County,” the decree states, and adds:

The parties recognize that the implementation of this Act will facilitate the movement of students, both black and white, who desire to avail themselves of the diverse educational offerings offered by the respective school districts in Garland County.

The Garland County Education Consortium, organized via the consent decree, examines “the ratio of black students to white students in each district and any changes that occur in those ratios.”

Mundell noted:

As long as the consent decree remains in effect, school choice in Garland County is governed by the 1989 act. In summary, a student may not transfer from one Garland County school district to another if the enrollment for the student’s race at the district into which the student wishes to transfer exceeds the percentage in the resident district. There are limited exceptions to this general rule.

She added that an individual seeking a waiver may file an appeal to the Arkansas State Board of Education “within 10 days upon receiving notice from the resident district of the denial of the school choice application.”

In the Rules Governing the School Choice Act of 1989, which Mundell also sent to Breitbart News, the section covering provisions and limitations on public school choice transfers states:

8.01 No student may transfer to a nonresident district where the percentage of enrollment for the student’s race exceeds that percentage in the student’s resident district, except as provided in 8.01.1 and 8.01.2.

8.01.1  A transfer is permitted if (1) the transfer is between districts within the same county; and (2) if the transfer does not result in either district exceeding the acceptable range of variance for representation of minority/majority students. The acceptable range of variance is determined as provided in Section 8.02, or

8.01.2  A transfer is permitted if each school district affected by the transfer does not have a critical mass of minority percentages of more than ten percent (10%) of any single.

According to the rules, the state education department must annually “compute the minority/majority racial percentage(s) of the public school population for each county from the October Annual School Report.”

“School districts may vary in the under-representation or over-representation of minority/majority students by a maximum of twenty-five percent (25%) of the difference in majority/minority percentages for the county as determined by the Department,” the rules state.

“No student transfer shall be permitted under the Public School Choice Program when such a transfer would conflict with a district’s desegregation court order or a district’s court-approved desegregation plan,” the rules add.

According to the consent decree, the Garland County Education Consortium evaluates “the hiring of minority teachers and staffs in compliance with all pertinent standards and statutes.”

“To that end, the Arkansas Department of Education agrees to study and determine and to report to the parties in this case, the composition of the available labor pool for black teachers and staffs for Garland County,” the decree states.

The consortium’s board of directors consists of the superintendents of the Garland County school districts and a board member from each district.

The president of the local chapter of the NAACP is invited to participate in meetings as a non-voting member.

The state department of education may provide education to school district staff as well, including civil rights awareness training, a race relations seminar, and a multicultural counseling strategies program.

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