Education

Judge Invalidates Arkansas Choice Law Over Race Provision

By Mark Walsh — June 10, 2012 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A federal district judge has struck down a 23-year-old Arkansas public school choice law because some student transfers between districts are barred on the basis of race.

The Arkansas Public School Choice Act of 1989 was designed to give parents more options for their children by permitting interdistrict transfers of students. But in a state with a lengthy history of desegregation challenges, and with many districts still under court supervision at that time, the statute contained provisions meant to prevent such transfers from harming desegregation efforts in either the sending or receiving district.

The main such provision is that no student may transfer to a district where the percentage of enrollment for that student’s race would exceed that proportion in the student’s home district. (The state passed a separate school choice law in 2004 designed to foster transfers away from underperforming schools, and it amended that law in 2011 to soften race considerations in such transfers.)

The law was challenged by two white families who had sought to transfer their children from the Malvern school district, where enrollment in the 2010-11 school year was 60 percent white, to the Magnet Cove district, which was 95 percent white. The Magnet Cove district denied the transfers, and the Arkansas state board of education, citing the provisions of the school choice law, upheld the denials.

The families challenged the consideration of race in that way as a violation of the equal-protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

The state argued that there is no right to transfer guaranteed by the choice law, only a right to an equitable education.

In his June 8 decision in Teague v. Arkansas Board of Education, Senior U.S. District Judge Robert T. Dawson of Fort Smith, Ark., took note of the state’s complicated history of desegregation efforts. And he noted that the state continues to fund desegregation efforts in two districts, Little Rock and Pulaski County, while many other districts are also under court supervision.

But the judge said neither the Malvern nor Magnet Cove districts appear to be operating under court orders for desegregation.

“The state must employ a more nuanced, individualized evaluation of school and student needs, which, while they may include race as one component, may not base enrollment or transfer options solely on race,” Judge Dawson said.

The plaintiffs had hoped for the judge to strike down only the race provision and an order requiring the Magnet Cove district to accept their children.

But the judge said that because the race provision could not be severed from the rest of the school choice law, he had no choice but to strike down the entire law as a violation of the equal-protection clause.

A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP