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'White Flight' Predicted in Little Rock Hearings

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Little Rock, Ark--Attorneys for the North Little Rock and Pulaski County School Districts argued during a weeklong federal-court hearing here earlier this month that a plan for consolidating the two districts with the Little Rock School District would require too much busing and would lead to massive "white flight."

U.S. District Judge Henry Woods ordered the consolidation of the three districts last month after a nine-day trial in January in a suit filed by the Little Rock district in November of 1982. The Little Rock district claimed that actions taken by the two defendent districts had led to the segregation of black students in the Little Rock district.

Only one consolidation plan, developed by Little Rock experts and adminstrators, has been proposed. It divides the district into six large zones and would maintain generally equal racial balances within all six.

The district would be less than 40 percent black; the Little Rock district is now 70 percent black, the county district is about 23 percent black, and the North Little Rock district is about 33 percent black. The consolidated district would include almost 60,000 students spread over almost 900 square miles.

The plan would assign all students to specific schools. There are now three magnet schools in the county--all in the Little Rock district; witnesses proposed the creation of new magnets that would give students more choices about where to attend schools.

Defense attorneys said 10,276 elementary-level students would be transferred under the new plan and most of these would be bused. No figures were presented on the number of elementary students now bused to school in the three districts.

David Armor, president of National Policy Analysts, a Santa Monica, Calif., research and consulting firm, and an expert witness for the Pulaski county district, said the plan would lead to massive white flight. He based that conclusion on the number of white students who would be bused to inner-city schools from rural parts of the county.

Judge Woods probably will not issue a final order in the case until June. Both defendent districts have said they plan to appeal once the final order is entered.

It appears that, at the earliest, consolidation would take place at the beginning of the 1985-86 school year.

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