Arkansas’ top law enforcement official has advanced new measures that from a civil rights standpoint would bring a large swath of a state with a history of discrimination back to the future.
Attorney General Tim Griffin earlier this week filed four briefs that aim to repeal federal desegregation supervision that would effectively exempt four South Arkansas school districts from state laws preventing students from enrolling in schools outside their home districts, The Arkansas Times reports.
The measure dovetails with Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ Arkansas LEARNS Act, an educational overhaul package that promotes vouchers. Proponents of the measure say it will create opportunities for low-income families, but critics say it will undermine public education.
Griffin’s filings aim to end federal desegregation supervision in Camden Fairview, Hope, Lafayette County and Junction City districts.
He said segregation no longer exists in Arkansas schools and that the supervision is now unnecessary.
Griffin in a statement described the civil rights measures his filings would upend as “unconstitutional, race-based consent decrees from decades past are denying equal rights to parents to select the school that best meets the needs of their children.”
“Despite segregation ending decades ago, several school districts have left outdated consent decrees on the books and rely on them to opt out of school choice, thereby avoiding competition and retaining funds for students who would otherwise leave,” his statement said.
“Schools must be accountable to parents, and children should not be stuck in schools that aren’t meeting their needs. Parents, not the government, must be allowed to decide what’s best for their children.”
Whitney Moore, an attorney who represents the four districts, defended the existing desegregation supervision, and said vouchers would promote “white flight” that would have a “segregative impact.”
"This is about remedying the effects of past de jure segregation and, as a remedy, race-based measures are constitutional," Moore told The Arkansas Democrat Gazette.
"Through the years, all of these districts have taken the position that they are non-discriminatory in their operations but the white flight issue persists and therefore, participating in school choice has a segregative impact."
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