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Ark. school choice plaintiffs seek to bar LR brief

The Little Rock School District wants to have its say in the appeal of a judge's decision to throw out Arkansas' school choice law, but parents who brought the original lawsuit want a federal appeals panel to block the move.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The Little Rock School District wants to have its say in the appeal of a judge's decision to throw out Arkansas' school choice law, but parents who brought the original lawsuit want a federal appeals panel to block the move.

A group of parents from Malvern filed suit challenging a provision in the law that takes race into account when students want to attend school in a district other than their home district.

In June, U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson said he couldn't separate the race clause from the law and threw out the entire statute. The Malvern parents objected to the wholesale reversal of the law and ask in filings with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that the law be reinstated, absent the portion requiring consideration of a district's racial balance.

Dawson stayed his ruling until the appeals process was completed.

The Little Rock School District is party to a lengthy desegregation lawsuit, and the Malvern parents say their case should be "decided without the distractions presented by (the Little Rock School District) and its infamous" desegregation case.

The parents filing from Monday says that if the appeals panel allows the Little Rock district to file a friend of the court brief, it should be limited and that district attorneys shouldn't be allowed to participate in oral arguments.

The Little Rock district, the largest in the state with 24,000 students, argues that it has standing "because the School Choice Act is a desegregation remedy."

The district wants Dawson's ruling reversed and the School Choice Act to be ruled constitutional, including the race provision, on grounds that Dawson used the wrong legal standard in deciding the original case.

The Arkansas Education Department asked through court filings by the Arkansas attorney general's office that the law be upheld.

The Malvern parents who sued are white and claimed education officials improperly blocked their children from enrolling in the adjacent Magnet Cove School District

The School Choice Act prohibits transfers into districts where the percentage of the student's race is higher than the percentage in the student's resident district. The children in the case are white and the Malvern district is 60 percent white, while Magnet Cove is 95 percent white.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports (http://is.gd/4Zz1Fm) that the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County districts receive about $70 million annually from the state to fund items that include transportation for the transferring students and inter-district magnet schools, which enroll students through a race-based assignment system.

In the desegregation action, the state has asked U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. to end the desegregation settlement and its associated funding obligations.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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