Appeals Court: Arkansas Can't Stop Desegregation Funds

A federal district judge acted improperly in cutting funds for school integration, the higher court ruled.

Posted: 12/28/2011 04:24 PM EST

A federal appeals court ruled that the state of Arkansas cannot stop funding for desegregation programs in the public schools in the Little Rock area until a determination is made by a separate court hearing.


Earlier in the year, a United States District judge ordered an end to the funding for the desegregation programs, saying they were counterproductive. The judge, Brian Miller, said that the three school districts involved were delaying the desegregation efforts in order to continue receiving state funds.


But the 8th United States Court of Appeals ruled that Judge Miller had failed to make his case and that his decision lacked “specific findings of fact.”


The appeals court said that, before desegregation funds are discontinued, a formal hearing on the evidence must be held and a notice must be issued before a court can end desegregation programs.


Under a 1989 settlement, the state of Arkansas is required to  provide funds to support desegregation programs in magnet schools as well as transfers between districts to maintain a racial balance in the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County school districts. The state has been spending about $38 million a year to comply with the settlement, the appeals court ruling said.


For some time, elected officials in Arkansas have called for ending the desegregation payments. However, the school districts have maintained that the programs are still necessary.


School desegregation has been an issue of intense public debate since even before the 1957 integration of Central High School, in which federal troops were called to protect nine Black students, known as the Little Rock Nine, who enrolled in the then all-white school.


Little Rock sued the state and its two neighboring districts in 1982. Two years later, a judge agreed the districts had taken insufficient measures to assist the city schools to desegregate.

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