by Max Brantley
Some numbers noodling on a slow day, the research provided by Jennifer Barnett Reed:
A writer objected recently to my calling the Little Rock School District majority black. My reference was to the student population, which is nearly 70 percent black. He argued that it would be more accurate to say the district – meaning the geographic area it covers – is majority white.
A little research indicates that this is in doubt, though I can’t yet get a definitive answer to the question of the current racial makeup of the land covered by LRSD.
The National Center for Education Statistics crunches Census data to determine the makeup of school district populations. In 2000, it said, the Little Rock School District territory was 53 percent white, 41 percent black and 3 percent Hispanic overall. At the same time, the numbers foretold a changing future. The population aged 5-19 was 38 percent white, 56 percent black and 3 percent Hispanic.
The city has continued to change since 2000. In a 2006 Census update, the city of Little Rock as a whole, not just the smaller school district, had a population of 187,535. Of those, 93,947 were non-Hispanic whites, or 50.1 percent. There were 78,516 blacks, or 41.9 percent, and 8,748 Hispanics, or 4.7 percent, plus an assortment of other groups. Thus, the city as a whole in 2005 was nearly majority "minority."
The school district doesn't share the city's boundaries. It is much smaller. The school district doesn’t include the overwhelmingly white Chenal Valley, among other predominantly white western neighborhoods. So it seems likely that the School District itself has become minority majority in population. The National Center for Education Statistics hasn’t analyzed the 2006 Census update for school district percentages, a spokesman for Census data center at UALR said.
What does it matter? You tell me. It would mean, at the least, that the 4-3 black majority on the School Board is representative of the racial makeup of the district they represent.