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Arkansas School Choice: 2017-18

Posted By Arkansas Learns, Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, March 21, 2018

14,123 (2.9%) of Arkansas's 479,258 public school students chose to attend school in a district not of their residence. The most chosen among the state's 238 districts ranged from North to South, East to West, rural to urban. Here are the leaders:

District Number of Non-resident dStudents
Greene Co. Tech 566
Southside (Independence Co.) 505
Bauxite 432
Paragould 397
Alma 373
Benton 368
Lakeside (Garland Co.) 348
West Memphis 267
Pottsville 255
North Little Rock 248
Valley View 242
West Fork 226
White Hall 221
Poyen 217
Harmony Grove (Saline Co.) 213
Greenwood 194
Palestine-Wheatley 186 
Brookland 183
Nettleton 182
Jonesboro 182
Farmington 180
Hoxie 176
Watson Chapel 175
Elkins 167
Mountain Home 160
Pea Ridge 156
Lawrence County 154
Greenbrier 148
Perryville 146
Pocahontas 132
Van Buren 128
Magnet Cove 115
Hot Springs 111
Lake Hamilton 107
Cave City 102
Fayetteville 100

 

And here are the leaders of non-resident students as percentage of overall enrollment:

District Percentage of Non-resident Students
Poyen 36%
Southside (Independence Co.) 27%
Bauxite 25%
West Fork 23%
Palestine-Wheatley 23%
Hoxie 21%
Harmony Grove (Saline Co.) 17%
Lawrence County 17%
Magnet Cove 16%
Perryville 16%
Greene Co. Tech 16%
Pottsville 15%
Magazine 14%
Woodlawn 14%
Caddo Hills 14%
Elkins 13%
Armorel 13%
Paragould 13%
Dierks 12%
Marmaduke 12%
Alma 12%
Cotter 11%
Spring Hill 11%
Cutter-Morning Star 11%
Emerson-Taylor 10%
Lakeside (Garland Co.) 10%
Danville 10%

 

Some fast facts:

  • 218 school districts received at least one non-resident student via School Choice
  • 18 school districts participating in School Choice received zero non-resident students
  • Four school districts claiming exemptions from School Choice still received non-resident students
    • El Dorado - 42 (See more below)
    • Texarkana - 3
    • Junction City - 1 (plus Louisiana resident students) (See more below)
    • Camden Fairview - 1
  • Seven school districts in Garland County, precluded from School Choice by a U.S. District Judge, were among the state's leaders receiving non-resident students (see Garland County below). Unfortunately, rather than equal access for all, the Court considers race in approving transfers, which sometimes divides blended, bi-racial families
  • 115 school districts have at least 3% of their enrollment from non-residents

Sadly, the residents of six Arkansas school districts were denied choice by their boards. Five of those districts were counseled by the same law firm - Allen P. Roberts PA of Camden. The newly elected board of the Pulaski County Special School District fired the firm last year (along with its superintendent) and unanimously voted to participate in and benefit from Inter-district School Choice beginning in 2018. Texarkana, also represented by the Roberts firm, will not exempt in 2018-19.

Unfortunately, the Jacksonville/North Pulaski School District did not follow PCSSD's lead, as it did on exemption. The claimed basis for its exemption, the Desegregation Settlement Agreement - written by the district's attorneys when they were in the Attorney General's Office - expires at the end of next year. So, unless U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall, Jr. intervenes, the district should be participating in School Choice in 2019. Here are the districts claiming exemptions for 2018-19, linked to their anachronistic and non-conflicting excuses:

Finally, the Arkansas Department of Education, under the leadership of Commissioner Johnny Key, has denied the proposed exemptions of Camden Fairview (except for transfers to/from Harmony Grove), Hope, Junction City, and Lafayette County. Those appeals are expected before the State Board of Education in March. Hope and the State of Arkansas are currently in federal court regarding that district's claimed exemption from state law.

 

El Dorado School District

Unlike Inter-district School Choice, which is open to all, but capped at 3% per year, Legal Transfers require agreement by both the resident and receiving school boards and have no cap. In other words, rather than equal access for all, who gets in (or out) is picked and chosen by boards and administrations.

As a result, even though the El Dorado School District is 49% African-American, only 7% of its current 42 non-resident students are African-American, while 88% are White.

The district admits it generally lets in any White non-residents and generally lets out any resident African-Americans. The reverse means it generally traps resident White students and denies entry to non-resident African-Americans. To what end? El Dorado uses "Legal Transfers" to increase its White enrollment and reduce its African-American. It's tantamount to demographic eugenics.

The El Dorado Promise, which pays up to 100% of college tuition and fees for El Dorado High School graduates, began in 2007. The El Dorado School District's "pick and choose" method of determining non-resident transfers is disproportionately denying African-Americans the Promise readily available to non-resident White students.

District 2 or More Races Asian Black Hispanic Native American/
Native Alaskan
Native Hawaiian/
Pacific Islander
White Total
El Dorado 2 0 3
0 0 37 42

 

Junction City

For generations, Junction City has accepted enrollment of Louisiana residents into its district. So, what it denies Arkansas residents, it readily grants Louisiana residents and their accompanying dollars.

 

Garland County

The seven school districts of Garland County are precluded by a U.S. District Judge from participating in Inter-district School Choice. However, under the Court's supervision, the districts still send and receive transfers based on race, a method which has since been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. Here are the numbers and races of the respective districts' transfers in 2017-18:

District 2 or More Races Asian Black Hispanic Native American/
Native Alaskan
Native Hawaiian/
Pacific Islander
White Total
Cutter-Morningstar 12 0 2 9 1 1 43 68
Fountain Lake 5 0 1 8 2 0 53 69
Hot Springs 6 3 8 16 0 0 78 111
Jessieville 2 0 2 1 0 1 66 72
Lake Hamilton 16 0 12 20 2 0 57 107
Lakeside 36 2 54 65 6 0 185 348
Mountain Pine 0 0 0 0 0 0 15 15
TOTAL 77 5 79 119 11 2 497 790

 

What's wrong with this picture? Under the guise of "desegregation," as in El Dorado, far more White students (63% of transfers), both in percentage and numbers, are benefitting from the districts' "pick-and-choose" transfers than African-American students (10% of transfers). And that's under court supervision! While the Court remains stuck on Black and White, because of blended, bi-racial families, there are examples of transfers being denied and approved within the same household.

Meanwhile, three of Garland County's seven school districts are among the state's leaders in receiving non-resident students:

  • Lakeside (348) - 7th
  • Hot Springs (111) - 33rd
  • Lake Hamilton (107) - 34th

And two are among the state's leaders in non-resident students as percentage of overall enrollment:

  • Cutter-Morning Star (12%) - 24th
  • Lakeside (11%) - 26th

A consensus among the districts to settle their federal court issue(s) seems to be emerging.

When it comes to equal access for all vs. creation, protection of arbitrary government (school board) determined racial percentages, we will always side with the former. While numbers don't lie, those - like Allen P. Roberts PA - calling school choice advocates "segregationists" do.

Source: https://adedata.arkansas.gov/statewide/Districts/SchoolChoice.aspx

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