Earlier this week in El Dorado, U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey issued orders denying the motions for temporary orders and preliminary injunctions filed by the Hope, Junction City and Lafayette County school districts, which had sought relief from participation in the Arkansas Public School Choice Act. The districts collectively argued that their participation in the School Choice Act would cause them to violate the terms of court orders issued in their desegregation cases as to their desegregation obligations.
The Arkansas Department of Education and State Board of Education have denied the districts’ requests to be exempted from the Act, finding no conflict between the provisions in the orders and the school-choice provisions of the Act and thus ordering the districts to participate in school choice for the 2018-2019 school year. The ADE and SBE intervened in the case to oppose the districts’ motions.
In reaching its decision, the court focused on whether the districts would be “irreparably harmed” if the motions were not granted. The court considered the districts’ arguments that they would suffer irreparable harm, citing two scenarios:
1.) If students were allowed to transfer, it is unlikely that they would ever return, causing a segregative impact and a financial impact due to the loss of students
2.) By being required to participate in school choice until the court rules on its main motion for declaratory judgment as to its legal ability to participate in school choice, the terms of the desegregation court orders would be violated.
The court denied the districts’ arguments, finding that 1.) If the districts prevail on their motions for declaratory judgment, the court could order the return of the students and the related state funding to the districts, and 2.) The districts will not suffer irreparable harm if the approved student transfers leave the district.
The court cited testimony that the districts would not suffer imminent financial harm if the transfer students left the districts and that the districts’ funding for the 2018-2019 school year is already in place.
We will keep you apprised of further developments in these cases as they occur.