Federal Judge Brian Miller today denied multiple requests for a stay of his surprise ruling calling for an immediate end to state desegregation aid to school districts in Pulaski County. It was expected. The school districts now will move quickly to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Little Rock’s attorney Chris Heller said the appeal would be filed today.
Miller said he didn’t think the districts would prevail on appeal and they wouldn’t be harmed in the meanwhile. Right. A loss of $70 million two months before school begins, with legal teaching contracts that must be honored and some 5,000 students expecting transportation to magnet or interdistrict school choices, is going to cause enormous disruption to education here. Only Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and the judge could argue otherwise with a straight face.
The brief order includes this head-scratching footnote:
It seems that, with the exception of the State of Arkansas, the parties are in total agreement that the money should keep coming, which supports the finding that the state funding is proving to be an impediment to true desegregation. The parties’ harmony regarding the appeal of the funding issue is in stark contrast to their heated disagreements over everything else regarding the districts.
Why the judge has decided the correlation of money has caused a failure to desegregate is anybody’s guess. By the judge’s reasoning, if the state provided not a single dime to the districts at all, they’d be havens of interracial harmony and spectacular student achievment.
His reasoning is also demonstrably flawed factually. The court has ruled Little Rock HAS desegregated. It has ruled North Little Rock has desegregated in all but one area, minority staff recruitment. Pulaski County, well, it has continuing problems. But a central portion of what successful desegregation efforts the districts can show are in the magnet schools and interdistrict transfer program that the judge proposes to wreck by jerking the state financial aid away. Most of the money goes to those programs.
A lot of lawyers think the 8th Circuit, based on other decisions in other districts, won’t go along with a decision that wasn’t argued in court and was sprung as a total surprise. Strange stuff.