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Judge rules to end most desegregation funding

A federal judge has ruled that Arkansas can end most types of state desegregation funding to three Little Rock-area school districts.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A federal judge has ruled that Arkansas can end most types of state desegregation funding to three Little Rock-area school districts.

U.S. District Judge Brian Miller's order Thursday allows legislators to end much of the estimated $70 million a year the state pays to the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County school districts.

In Miller’s ruling, he pointed out that desegregation funding de-incentivizes compliance with the district’s desegregation plans because they “face having their funds cut by the state if they act in good faith and comply.” Moving forward, Miller says that best way to assure desegregation is by “punishing dilatory behavior,” not by “rewarding it.”

In discussing the background the case, Miller described the hearings with both the North Little Rock School District and the Pulaski County Special School District. Of the hearings, he says “It is very easy to conclude that few if any of the participants in this case have any clue how to effectively educate underprivileged black children. It is cause for great concern that a number of the various participants in this case seem to believe there is some magic spell that will do the trick, such as some special racially-based formula or program. Even more concerning, however, is that it seems some of the participants do not really care.”

The Governor’s Office welcomed the ruling, saying “it is time to end this cycle of desegregation payments that do not produce results.” Attorney General Dustin McDaniel called the system of desegregation funding broken, and says he is committed to working with all those involved to “ensure the fiscal stability of these districts and a quality education for their students.”

A majority of the 110 page ruling discussed how both the NLR and PCSSD complied with various areas of their desegregation plan. Both districts had petitioned the court to be declared “unitary” and thus remove court supervision over certain aspects of their operations.

Judge Miller ruled that NLR had substantially complied with desegregation efforts in all areas under consideration except for Staff Recruitment. PCSSD fared far worse, remaining under court supervision in nine separate areas.

Miller had strong words for PCSSD. Before examining the individual aspects of their desegregation plan, Miller said “In listening to Pulaski County’s witnesses, it seems that Pulaski County has given very little thought, and even less effort, to complying with its desegregation plan. Complying with its plan obligations seems to have been an afterthought.”

PCSSD Superintendent Charles Hopson responded to the ruling, saying that the “District has expressed keen disappointment and surprise at certain aspects of the ruling.” Hopson went on to say that the district was determining what to do in the short term and whether it would file an appeal or seek a stay.

NLR, for its part, was much happier with the decision, calling it “good news.” A spokesperson for the district said that district administrators were meeting with a lawyer for clarification of the judge's order stopping the desegregation funding.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report
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