Earlier this week a federal judge ruled that Arkansas can stop making payments on one of the nation’s most historic desegregation efforts.
While the ruling no longer holds the state liable in a financial sense, U.S. District Judge Price Marshall did stress that work still needed to be done to ensure Little Rock-area students receive a proper education.
“I think this is a day we can write in the book and draw a circle around and remember that we did something important,” Marshall said. He said his objective was to ensure the agreement among lawyers for the state, the districts and black schoolchildren was fair, reasonable and adequate.
“There comes a time … where things should stop and things should go in the book,” Marshall said. “This is a fair and appropriate place to have a stop.”
The state has paid more than $1 billion to three Little Rock-area school districts since 1989 in efforts to desegregate schools. Under the deal approved by Judge Marshall, those payments will end in four years. One of the districts still hasn’t been declared desegregated.
Little Rock was the scene of America’s first major desegregation battle. In 1957, federal troops were used to escort nine black students known as the “Little Rock Nine” into Central High School.
The most recent case stemmed from a 1982 lawsuit when the Little Rock district said policies among the state and the North Little Rock and Pulaski County districts left all schools countywide with a racial imbalance. Under the 1989 settlement, Arkansas agreed to give districts more money.
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