A court battle over school choice transfers continues for four districts in south Arkansas. Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has been fighting for the rights of parents to choose what's best for their kids, but for now, at least in several precincts below I-30, the students remain educational hostages.
The 2018 report cards came out in April for Arkansas schools. A brief glance at the school districts involved in this school choice court battle does not inspire confidence. Hope School District has a high school with a D grade. The Junction City School District has an elementary school with a D. Lafayette County School District has an elementary school with an F and a high school with a D. And Camden Fairview School District has three schools with D grades.
All of that data comes from the Arkansas Department of Education Data Center. You can pull any school district's letter grades at https://myschoolinfo.arkansas.gov.
Now consider you're a parent. The Legislature not long ago took action to give you greater choice in what district your kids attends. If the neighborhood school is failing to educate--and failing in its responsibility--then you had options. Why not attend the other school down the road a piece?
But in January, a federal judge issued a ruling preventing kids, actually their families, from participating in the Arkansas School Choice Act, which allows such transfers. Now this state's attorney general is fighting, rightly so, to get that ruling overturned in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
Here's hoping Leslie Rutledge's office is successful. There are a lot of households in Hope, Junction City, and Camden that hope Leslie Rutledge's office is successful, too.
If local schools are failing, students should have the opportunity to go elsewhere. It's compassionate, it's humane, it's the law. What the latest ruling does is essentially tell these children "Sorry, you have to go down with the ship." It sacrifices their educational future for the benefit of the failing school district.
Attorneys for the four school districts have made the argument that allowing kids to transfer out into more successful school districts will result in "white flight," resurrecting desegregation challenges from the past. But that shouldn't be the problem of parents who are just trying to get their kids a better education. Or at least a minimal one.
Here's a solution: If the districts fix their schools, parents won't want to transfer their children.
But keeping students chained to failing schools is exactly the wrong solution. The attorneys for the state are going deep into the legal weeds to make their case before the 8th Circuit. For those interested in those arguments, see Thursday's front page story by Cynthia Howell.
As deep and thick as those weeds are, we hope those arguments are convincing enough for certain judges in St. Louis. The education--the futures--of hundreds of children in Arkansas hang in the balance.
Editorial on 05/13/2019
Print Headline: Education's hostages