by Max Brantley
The League of United Latin American Citizens has appealed the new Little Rock School District school board zones to the Pulaski County Election Commission, a three-member group comprising two Democrats and one Republican.
UPDATE: However, the Election Commission says that the Little Rock and North Little Rock school districts are exempted by state law from review of zone boundaries by the county election commission and so it will not be considering new zones in either district.
LULAC, in a message from Terry Trevino-Richard, said the boundaries adopted by a racially divided School Board last week (the black majority favored the new map) didn't follow a rational reasoning but seemed designed primarily to address the personal desires of school board members, particularly Michael Nellums, whose boundary proposal was adopted. LULAC called the map an "arbitrary and covert attempt to minimize the represenation of Latino students and parents." It suggests it might take legal action if the new map is put in place.
LULAC had favored a plan that concentrated more of the district's growing Latino population in a single school board zone. The plan approved divided that population between two zones. It's unlikely a map could currently be drawn with majority Latino population, much less majority Latino voters, but a solid voting group could be influential in school board races, where turnout is often quite small.
Trevino-Richard's letter to county election officials follows. He told me later that he was talking with LULAC officials about the possibility of legal action, but no firm decision had been made.
Please accept this email as an appeal on behalf of the Latino children in the Little Rock School District to table the approval of the rezoning map submitted by the LRSD Board. LULAC would like to appeal the decision as an arbitrary and covert attempt to minimize the representation of Latino students and parents in the LRSD representative zones and was adopted under personal rather than representative guidelines. I am attaching the emails forwarded to all the board members on behalf of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) requesting that the growing number of Latino students and parents by recognized in any rezoning map. Additionally LULAC identifies the following criteria which emerged in the last meeting as additional critical variables that necessitate a review and rejection of the approved map 7. LULAC asks that the Election Committee remand the approved map back to the board for further discussion.
* Once again the vote by board members reflects a racial divide which continues to have a negative impact to many of the decisions made by board members. In this case it is the African-American members of the board who have ignored the repeated requests of Latinos to have their voices heard in adopting new zones. This type of "racial politics" is a contributor to the loss of confidence among many parents with children as regards their sense of fairness existing within the LRSD.
* Comments made by Mr. Nellums about the rationale of introducing Map 7 was based on his opposing his original zone boundary that was two blocks from his house and wanting to connect preferred neighborhoods based on areas he wanted to place in his zone. This seems to be a personal rather than any rational or “required” reason for redrawing the zones.
* Also during the board discussions, Mr. Armstrong made the rather prejudicial statement about the number of Latino parents who were "illegals" as if considering the make-up and representation within the zones did not need to consider Latinos because of their residential status. This despite the fact that 85% of the children of Latinos are American citizens who deserve to be represented.
* A main reason the Election Commission should not approve Map 7 is the obvious gerrymandering of the boundaries which is plainly visible in the unorthodox extension of Zone 1 which absorbs an almost disconnected area from zone 7 (heavily Latino) into zone 1. This is exactly the type of gerrymandering which was identified to the board members as why LULAC and Latinos were opposed to any map other than Map 5. (see email attachments)
* Finally – Map 7 which was approved by the board members was NOT one of the requested maps drawn by Metroplan for the explicit purpose of meeting critical factors in redrawing the zone boundaries. In fact Metroplan made it a point to note that Maps 6 + 7 were drawn by board members to suit their own interests and was not a part of the Metroplan options.
LULAC is asking the Election Commission to note the opposition of many of the Latino children and parents in the LRSD to challenge the approval of this map. The Election Commission should note these irregularities and basic trampling of the interests of Latino parents and children to be fairly represented. The approval of this map risks an injunction based on the capricious nature of those who drew this map and demonstrates a form of institutional discrimination against Latinos in the LRSD. Should the Election Commission wish to have representatives of the Latino community address the members - please email me or phone