School choice | Arkansas Blog

School choice



You've perhaps read about the families in Malvern that don't think the schools are white enough and have dodged state law to enroll their children in neighboring school districts. Under Arkansas law, school choice is not allowed to promote segregation. The parents have sued since Malvern has tried to begin pulling its legal students back. A federal judge yesterday said the parents' lawsuit stood little chance of success.

In a related development, the attorney general's office today released an opinon that said, because of the ongoing legal action, it couldn't offer an opinion on the constitutionality of the Arkansas school choice law in light of a federal court precedent that says race alone may not be a determinant for student assignment.

It may be just me. But I don't think the Arkansas law makes race the only determinant on school admission. The law also considers residency and other factors for those seeking transfers, including sufficiency of a home school district. Until now, the parents fleeing Malvern haven't made much of a case that their moves have been related to any objective factor other than race. It may be their sole determinant, but not the state's.

QUESTION (from state Rep. Johnny Hoyt): In light of the Supreme Court decision (Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, et al.) that it is unconstitutional to base admission to schools solely on race, is the current School Choice law in Arkansas constitutional? 

RESPONSE:  I regret to say that I must respectfully decline to offer an opinion on your question at this time.  The constitutionality of the Arkansas Public School Choice Act of 1989 is the subject of pending  litigation in a lawsuit captioned Darrin Hardy et al. v. Malvern School District, Case No. 08-6094, United States District Court, Western District of Arkansas (Hot Springs Division).  My office has a longstanding policy of declining to render advisory opinions on matters pending before the courts.


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