In El Dorado and Other Exempting Districts, Racial Percentages Matter More Than Equal Access

The El Dorado School District, one of only seven Arkansas school districts exempting from the state’s law on Inter-district School Choice, has a dirty little secret.
It’s doing School Choice – the pick-and-choose kind – via legal transfers, which require agreement of the resident and receiving districts. As a result, here are the demographics of the non-resident students “picked and chosen” for admission to the El Dorado School District over the past fourteen years:

  • 2004-05: 67 (4 Black; No other races reported)
  • 2005-06: 90 (6 Black; No other races reported)
  • 2006-07: 90 (1 Black; No other races reported)
  • 2007-08: 90 (1 Black; No other races reported)
  • 2008-09: 79 (2 Black; No other races reported)
  • 2009-10: 103 (92 White, 7 Black, 4 Other)
  • 2010-11: 101 (88 White, 7 Black, 6 Other)
  • 2011-12: 76 (68 White. 4 Black, 4 Other)
  • 2012-13: 60 (53 White, 4 Black, 3 Other)
  • 2013-14: 68 (56 White, 7 Black, 5 Other)
  • 2014-15: 61 (48 White, 6 Black, 7 Other)
  • 2015-16: 55 (45 White, 4 Black, 6 Other)
  • 2016-17: 48 (40 White, 3 Black, 5 Other)
  • 2017-18: 42 (37 White, 3 Black, 2 Other)
  • 14-YEAR TOTAL: 1,030 (59 Black – 5.7%)
  • 9-YEAR TOTAL: 614 (527 White – 86%, 45 Black – 7%, 42 Other – 7%)

Get the picture? In the name of desegregation, El Dorado is selectively enrolling non-resident White students at a rate nearly 12 to 1 over non-resident African-American students. As a result, in a district that is 38% White and 49% Black, at least 86% of transfers are White, while only 5.7% are Black. The only reason to claim an exemption from Inter-district School Choice is to trap some students and keep others out. The numbers prove who El Dorado is keeping out. A percentage of the El Dorado Promise is available to non-resident students who transfer into the district by the ninth grade. It is unfathomable that only 59 African-American students have sought transfer into the district over the past fourteen years. Meanwhile, non-resident employees of the district may choice in their students, regardless of race. And, resident employees of other districts may choice out their students, also regardless of race. El Dorado, like six of the seven other exempting districts in Arkansas, is represented by the same law firm, Allen P. Roberts, P.A. of Camden. Pulaski County Special School District (PCSSD), which will fully participate in and benefit from Choice in 2018, fired the firm along with its Choice-hating superintendent earlier this year. In 2014, the former PCSSD superintendent, the Roberts firm, and Joshua Intervenors attorney John Walker were responsible for a one-year drop in African-American Choice into the Little Rock School District of 1,259 students. El Dorado has so much going for it. It’s a shame and disgrace to let the school board, superintendent, and their attorneys trap its students simply because of residence and be the sole gatekeepers as to who gets in or out of the district.
The El Dorado School District board, superintendent, and their enabling attorneys and U.S. District Judge must do better. Brown v. Board of Education was about ensuring equity of access for all, not propping up arbitrarily determined artificial racial balances. Here are the only districts in Arkansas exempting from School Choice, hyperlinked to their excuses, as well as their percentages of White students:

Many Arkansas school districts have a lower percentage of White students than the exempting districts, but are fully participating in and benefiting from Inter-district School Choice, including Little Rock (18% White – same as Hope). If Little Rock, with its tortured past in the federal courts, which is bordered to the east, south and west by a district (Pulaski County Special) which is 44% White, can do it, so too can El Dorado and its fellow clients of Allen P. Roberts, P.A.

The choice really is this simple: either parents know what’s best for students, or the government (i.e. school board) does. Parents, citizens and the business and civic leadership of the exempting districts must insist that their respective boards choose choice and follow Arkansas law. It’s an individual, familial and community economic development imperative.

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