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.
School Choice Opinion and OrderView
School Choice JudgementView
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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