the separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by barriers to social intercourse, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means.
In its opposition to open-enrollment public charter schools and inter-district school choice, the status quo claims both are causing “re-segregation.”
Unfortunately for their credibility, the data-driven facts prove just the opposite.
What is emerging, however, is a definition difference between those who believe “desegregation” is the preservation and/or creation of preferred demographic percentages versus those who believe “desegregation” is equal access for all.
What is also evident is that those who are committed to the former, at least in much of Arkansas, only think of diversity in terms of Black and non-Black, not all cultures.
Little Rock School District Local/Federal Control Past
The 1989 Desegregation Settlement Agreement provided for the establishment of six Stipulation Magnets in the Little Rock School District:
- Parkview Arts and Science Magnet High School
- Horace Mann Arts and Science Magnet Middle School
- Booker Arts Magnet Elementary School
- Carver Math and Science Magnet Elementary School
- Gibbs Magnet Elementary School of Foreign Language and International Studies
- Williams Traditional Magnet Elementary School
The Stipulation Magnets were originally required to have a student population which was fifty-percent (50%) black and fifty percent (50%) non-black and a prescribed method for allocating magnet seats among the then-three (Little Rock, Pulaski County Special, North Little Rock) school districts.
As a result, because of demand, African-American students were denied entry at far greater numbers than non-black students. Even though empty seats were available, because of racial percentage requirements, empty seats were prioritized over the “over-admission” of African-American students.
It is unclear when the district committed to a gerrymandered, non-contiguous attendance zone encompassing much of Little Rock’s affluent neighborhoods and preferential magnet admissions (Gifted & Talented, International Studies) for Central High School. As a result of this and Parkview’s 100% preferential magnet admission, Little Rock’s remaining three high schools – Fair, Hall, McClellan – have been rendered hyper-segregated, 4%, 5% and 3% White, respectively. By contrast, Central is 29% White, while Parkview is 20%.
2014 Desegregation Settlement Agreement
Conditions imposed by then-Pulaski County Special School District Superintendent Jerry Guess and Joshua Intervenors Attorney John Walker in the 2014 Desegregation Settlement Agreement ended the Majority-to-Minority transfers prescribed in the 1989 agreement. As a result, African-American choice into the Little Rock School District dropped 1,259 students between 2013-14 and 2014-15, even though state funding used for the transfers’ transportation does not end until the end of this school year.
Further, the Agreement limited Legal Transfers among the three districts to 30 per year. As a result, the whitest district in the county – Pulaski County Special (44%) – denied entry of Little Rock and North Little Rock School District-resident students into the PCSSD. Meanwhile, LRSD is 18% White, while NLRSD is 30%.
Little Rock School District State Control Present
In 2017-18, the second year of State intervention, the Little Rock School District had its lowest enrollment gap between African-American and White students on recent record – 10,069. The previous low was 10,770 in 2004-05.
Also in 2016-17, after widening by nine percentage points in the eleven years before State intervention, tor the first time on recent record, the percentage gap between African-American and White students narrowed.
After unsuccessful challenges in both Circuit and U.S. District Courts, LRSD opened Pinnacle View Middle School sixth grade in West Little Rock in 2016-17. Instead of an attendance zone, students were assigned based on zoning of feeder elementary schools – Fulbright, Roberts and Terry. As a result, the school’s now 515-student body is the most balanced between Black and White in the district:
- 2 or More Races: 6 (1%)
- Asian: 42 (8%)
- Black: 217 (42%)
- Hispanic: 24 (5%)
- Native America/Native Alaskan: 1 (0%)
- Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 1 (0%)
- White: 224 (43%)
District-wide, Hispanic, Asian and Other now exceed total White enrollment in the Little Rock School District.
Open-enrollment Public Charter Schools
Since the year of the first open-enrollment public charter school in the Little Rock School District footprint (2004), African-American students and families have chosen charters at a rate 2.44 times that of White students and families.
1,024 White students attend open-enrollment public charter schools in the Little Rock School district footprint, compared to 2,501 African-American students. The Little Rock charters are a combined 78% minority.
In 2016, charter opponents claimed that the expansions of eStem Public Charter Schools and LISA Academy would accelerate the “re-segregation” of the Little Rock School District.
The following year, LISA Academy opened a 540-student K-6 in West Little Rock. This year and last, 14% of its students are White, 4 points less than the LRSD.
eStem High School opened on the campus of UALR this year. It’s 460-student body is 70% minority:
- 2 or More Races: 18 (3%)
- Asian: 7 (2%)
- Black: 261 (57%)
- Hispanic: 34 (7%)
- Native America/Native Alaskan: 1 (0%)
- Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander: 0 (0%)
- White: 139 (30%)
The City of Shannon Hills is in Saline County. However, its residents are split between the Pulaski County Special and Bryant School Districts.
In 2004-05, its Landmark Elementary in the PCSSD had 310 students, 155 (50%) of them White. In 2016-17, Landmark had 217 students, 89 (41%) of them White.
Conversely, the elementary school in the Bryant School District – Robert L. Davis – had 507 students in 2004-05, 467 (92%) of them White. In 2016-17, it had 585 students, 349 White (60%).
The 13-year difference: Pulaski County Special School District, which denied inter-district school choice, lost 30% of Landmark’s enrollment, while its White enrollment dropped nine percentage points.
Meanwhile, Bryant, which participated in inter-district school choice, increased enrollment by 15% as its White enrollment dropped 32 percentage points, resulting in both more students and more diversity.
Allen P. Roberts, PA
Lawyers from the same firm, Allen P. Roberts, PA of Camden, represent six of the seven school districts in Arkansas choosing to claim an exemption from Inter-district School Choice. All of those are in South/Southwest Arkansas.
- Camden Fairview School District
- El Dorado School District
- Hope School District
- Junction City School District
- Lafayette County School District
- Texarkana School District
The firm, as well as the superintendent who hired it, were fired by the Pulaski County Special School District earlier this year. Before that, the district voted unanimously to participate in Inter-district School Choice in 2018-19.
The only exempting district not represented by the firm is the new Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District, which followed its parent Pulaski County Special School District in claiming an exemption. It is hoped that the district will follow PCSSD’s latest lead and fully participate in 2018.
El Dorado School District
For the past 14 years, El Dorado’s non-resident Legal Transfer students have averaged 74 per year. Unlike Inter-district School Choice, which is open to all, but capped at 3% per year, Legal Transfers require agreement by both the resident and receiving school boards and have no cap. In other words, rather than equal access for all, who gets in (or out) is picked and chosen by boards and administrations.
As a result, even though the El Dorado School District is 49% African-American, only 5.7% (4) of the average 73 non-resident students admitted to the district were/are African-American. This year, that’s .07% African-American, 88% White (see below).
The district admits it generally lets in any White non-residents and generally lets out any resident African-Americans. The reverse means it generally traps resident White students and denies entry to non-resident African-Americans. To what end? El Dorado uses “Legal Transfers” to increase its White enrollment and reduce its African-American. It’s tantamount to demographic eugenics.
The El Dorado Promise, which pays up to 100% of college tuition and fees for El Dorado High School graduates, began in 2007. The El Dorado School District’s “pick and choose” method of determining non-resident transfers is disproportionately denying African-Americans the Promise readily available to non-resident White students.
|District||2 or More Races||Asian||Black||Hispanic||Native American/|
Junction City School District
The Junction City School District is one of seven school districts in Arkansas choosing to exempt from Inter-district School Choice by claiming one or more conflict(s) with federal order(s).
And yet, for generations, Junction City has accepted enrollment of Louisiana residents into its district. So, what it denies Arkansas residents, it readily grants Louisiana residents and their accompanying dollars.
Texarkana (AR) School District
Texarkana (AR) School District is one of seven school districts in Arkansas choosing to exempt from Inter-district School Choice by claiming one or more conflict(s) with federal order(s).
Texarkana’s High School is a Priority School, among the lowest 5% academically performing schools in Arkansas.
It is estimated that 400 to 600 Texarkana (AR) School District residents are misrepresenting their residence or transferring custody/guardianship so their students may enroll in the Texarkana (TX) School District.
The seven school districts of Garland County are precluded by a U.S. District Judge from participating in Inter-district School Choice. However, under the Court’s supervision, the districts still send and receive transfers based on race, a method which has been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Here are the numbers and races of the respective districts’ transfers in 2016-17:
|District||2 or More Races||Asian||Black||Hispanic||Native American/|
What’s wrong with this picture? Under the guise of “desegregation,” as in El Dorado, far more White students (64% of transfers), both in percentage and numbers, are benefitting from the districts’ “pick-and-choose” transfers than African-American students (9.5% of transfers).
A consensus among the districts to settle their federal court issue(s) seems to be emerging.
In the 91st General Assembly, Representative Clarke Tucker (D-District 35) introduced HB 1671, which would have given open-enrollment public charter schools the discretion of weighting admission lotteries to pre-determine their schools’ demographics. Currently, all charter admissions are blind – admit all that apply, and if demand exceeds capacity, hold a blind lottery.
Ironically, Representative Tucker’s district is home to the two whitest public schools, traditional or charter, in the Little Rock School District’s footprint – Forest Park and Jefferson, which are 74% and 72% White, respectively. Admission to those schools are solely determined by student residence, the most segregated aspect of society.
For context, the next highest percentage of White students in the Little Rock School District footprint are Roberts (57%) and Pulaski Heights Elementary (50%).
Artificial demographic manipulation has never worked and will never work because preferring one student means disfavoring another. Plus, those of means will always find a way to get their children out of an undesirable situation. Instead of prescribing or preserving demographics du jour, equity of access for all students should be our guide. Here’s how:
- Excellence in every school
- Minimize impact of traditional school district residence with elementary-only attendance zones
- Feeding Middle Schools/Jr. Highs
- Feeding High Schools
- Open-enrollment intra- and inter-district school choice where capacity
- Open-enrollment public charter schools
- Mobility empowered by smart, collaborative transportation
How do we know it will work? The newest school in the Little Rock School District – Pinnacle View Middle School – opened as the most racially balanced school in the district, simply by meeting long pent up demand and replacing an attendance zone with an elementary school feeder pattern.
The newest open-enrollment public charter school in the district – the 540-student LISA Academy-Chenal – opened in West Little Rock with only 14% White students – four points lower than the district.
The public school – traditional or charter – that most closely mirrors the resident demographics of the Little Rock School District is the enrollment-capped, open-enrollment eStem Public Charter Schools. Less than one percent of its downtown campus lives in the same ZIP Code as the school.
Denying equal access to students and families in the name of “desegregation” is, at best, intellectually dishonest and morally inconsistent. At worst, it’s self-interested and evil.