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Judge strikes down School Choice Act

By Evie Blad

This article was published June 8, 2012 at 1:31 p.m.

A federal judge struck down on Friday the state’s School Choice Act, calling into question the enrollment status of thousands of students who’ve transferred from their resident school districts under the act.

U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson ruled that a race-based provision in the Arkansas Public School Choice Act of 1989 violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Because Dawson determined the provision can’t be severed from the law, he enjoined the state from applying the School Choice Act.

State lawmakers created the law, finding that students and their parents “giving more options to parents and students with respect to where the students attend public school will increase the responsiveness and effectiveness of the state’s schools” by giving schools added incentive to satisfy the needs of students who reside in their districts.

An included restriction said “no student may transfer to a nonresident district where the percentage of enrollment for the student’s race exceeds that percentage in the student’s resident district.”

A group of parents whose children’s transfer had been denied under the race provision sued to have it struck down.

The lawsuit — believed to be the first constitutional challenge to the state’s choice law — came after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that said school assignments based solely on race were unconstitutional, with few exceptions.

Defendants in the case are the Arkansas Board of Education, its individual members and the Magnet Cove School District.

A spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Education said the agency was reading the ruling Friday morning, and its attorneys expected to comment further on its effects later in the afternoon.

Read tomorrow's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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Comments on: Judge strikes down School Choice Act

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Whippersnapper says... June 8, 2012 at 2:46 p.m.

Wow, a judge ruled that racism=racism. Plain and simple.

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dman says... June 8, 2012 at 2:56 p.m.

Wow, kids transfering to better schools outside their district have not "incentivized the schools in their districts to better meet their needs".

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TheBatt says... June 8, 2012 at 3:12 p.m.

"An included restriction said “no student may transfer to a nonresident district where the percentage of enrollment for the student’s race exceeds that percentage in the student’s resident district.”"

And this provision was included because courts previously had told Arkansas that anything that caused a change in racial balance was unconstitutional... So you try to appease one court/judge, only to then run amuck of yet another judge.

Personally, I believe that any reference at all to race in ANY law is wrong. Treat students as students, regardless of the color of their skins. Set high expectations, and if a school isn't challenging them, then allow them to transfer elsewhere that CAN meet those needs. Throw racial considerations out the window. But alas - if the Arkansas legislature were to meet to address this - no law they could pass would meet the constitutional muster of every judge it might come before - If they just reused the current law - it violates one judge's interpretation. But if they rewrite the law, omitting this particular part, then it will come against judges and lawsuits because racial balance will be changed in schools. There is no win.

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syzito says... June 8, 2012 at 3:13 p.m.

Maybe some common sense in the school districts finally.

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DontDrinkDatKoolAid says... June 8, 2012 at 3:25 p.m.

This social engineering over race needs to come to an end.

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dman says... June 8, 2012 at 3:58 p.m.

Kids should be permitted to attend a better school outside of their neighborhood or district if the local school is inadequate.

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Jjackk says... June 8, 2012 at 4:01 p.m.

When illegals flood schools the complaint is that they aren't helping to pay the taxes to operate the school. Isn't this the same thing? Sending your kid to a school that you aren't helping to pay for?

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Oldearkie says... June 8, 2012 at 4:17 p.m.

Looks like somebody woke up.

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RonalFos says... June 8, 2012 at 7:52 p.m.

Looks like segregation is the law of the land again.

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mgirl says... June 8, 2012 at 10:57 p.m.

Finally, some common sense. I've lived in a lot of states, and most other school districts in the US stopped considering race when they look at transferring a student. I tried transferring my kids two years ago and was denied solely on their skin color. After having the district tell me to my face that they were being denied the three schools I wanted because they were white , I decided to enroll my kids in a private school rather than have them exposed to the corrupt, racist school systems here.

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