On January 17th, U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall, Jr. ruled that the establishment of nearly a dozen state-approved charter schools in Pulaski County did not violate the 1989 desegregation settlement terms between the state and the three Pulaski County school districts. Parents seeking excellence through choice should thank Jess Askew III (Williams & Anderson PLC), the Little Rock attorney who successfully represented Arkansas Virtual Academy, the charter school intervenors. Mr. Askew told Cynthia Howell of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, “It is important that the charter schools won on three separate points, which means the Little Rock School District would have to clear three separate hurdles if it wants to try to appeal.”
Because Judge Marshall found that “no reasonable fact finder could conclude that the State is in material breach of the parties’ 1989 Settlement Agreement,” the Little Rock School Board should direct its superintendent and attorney(s) to end this litigation immediately and not appeal the decision to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
Thirty years ago, when the current board’s predecessors initiated the desegregation lawsuit to consolidate Pulaski County’s three public school districts, the percentage difference between black and white students in the Little Rock School District was 40 points. In 2010, even after $1.1 billion in desegregation spending, the gap was 47 points.
Further, because of the District’s race-based, 50/50 admissions policy for its magnets, thousands of African-American students are being disproportionately denied the opportunity to enroll in a higher performing school.
Rather than continuing to fight parents seeking excellence through choice, if the Board truly wants to narrow the percentage gap between black and white students, it should remove race as a factor in magnet school enrollment and immediately and proactively provide excellent, proximate public education for all students, particularly in Zones 4, 5 and 6, where no middle school exists.
For these reasons, Arkansas Learns strongly urges its members to contact members of the Little Rock School Board through our Action Site and ask them to immediately end this litigation by voting NO on appealing Judge Marshall’s decision to the 8th Circuit. While we continue to progress toward a Single Sign On (SSO) for both of our sites, at present, members will need to also register at Arkansas Learns – Votility in order to track, watch, vote, comment and act on this and other bills and issues impacting excellence in education for all students. For convenience, we suggest using the same username and password as your ArkansasLearns.org account. Judge Marshall’s 30-page Order