Federal Judge Susan Hickey of El Dorado refused today to allow the Hope, Lafayette County, Junction City and Camden Fairview school districts to block student transfers for this school year under the state’s expansive interdistrict transfer law.
The judge said the districts hadn’t demonstrated irreparable financial harm from the transfers. She has not
I’ve written at length on these cases. They are among a handful of Arkansas districts exempt from the transfer law sold as “school choice” but inevitably favoring transfer of white students out of districts majority black or with heavy black populations. That was the case in all these transfer requests. The racial balance is so overwhelming the pro-transfer Education Department under Gov. Asa Hutchinson no longer tallies the racial impact of transfers. It doesn’t care and doesn’t want to advertise racial impact.
The state is effectively aiding racial and economic segregation with the transfer law, something that was once not allowed by federal courts but now is more doable thanks to changing court precedent.
The judge issued orders for each of the four districts. Here’s her order for Hope.
In each case, she focused on “irreparable harm.” While students will be lost through transfer — and eventually state funding — there’s a chance she said that the students could return if she were to eventually rule that the districts could use their court cases on desegregation obligations and force a return of those students. The state argued that Hope’s loss of 69 students, all but one white, would be minor because it would only cause a drop of 5 percent in white enrollment.
But finances were paramount in the judge’s mind. Funding for the 2018-19 year is already in place and those transfers won’t affect this year’s funding significantly, she wrote.
The reasoning was the same for the other districts. Camden will lose 15 students, Junction City 5 and Lafayette County 42. The transfers are virtually all white.
Allen Roberts, attorney for the districts, hopes to persuade the judge in the cases to add school transfers as part of a continuation of the districts’ ability to resist segregation. It is not good news for that argument — even though it was not addressed today — that a batch of transfers has been allowed to go forward.
But the judge took care to say these findings — on a lack of immediate financial damage — did not consider the larger question. She has turned back the state’s effort to enforce the transfer in a couple of districts that clearly were exempted in desegregation orders.
It’s a victory for the continuing resegregation of Arkansvas schools and, by extension, a victory for the Walton lobby which has pushed, through expenditures of millions on legislators, legislation and lobbying and legal challenges, unlimited school transfer, charter schools and other support of alternatives to traditional public school districts.