While a federal judge last week stayed his ruling striking down Arkansas' school choice law, indicating the ruling would not take effect while appeals are pending, White Hall School District Superintendent Dr. Larry Smith said Monday that education officials are awaiting some clarification on the stay.
While a federal judge last week stayed his ruling striking down Arkansas’ school choice law, indicating the ruling would not take effect while appeals are pending, White Hall School District Superintendent Dr. Larry Smith said Monday that education officials are awaiting some clarification on the stay.
“White Hall is still between the rock and the hard place,” Smith told The Progress. “The judge’s own order said it was a limited stay” while it is being appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals at St. Louis.
How long the appeal may take is not clear, Smith said, adding that just adds to planning problems for school administrators, who must be ready for classes that begin Aug. 20.
The issue is compounded by the “simple fact that we all agree the law is unconstitutional,” Smith added, and the upcoming Sunday deadline for districts to comply with the law now on the books.
White Hall had 115 students enrolled under the 1989 Arkansas Public School Choice Act during the 2011-12 school year, with 10 of the 115 graduating. Smith’s office had received 85 new school choice applications by the end of last week.
Dawson’s June 8 ruling, if upheld, would prohibit a student from transferring from the district where he or she lives to another district.
“The stay means that while the appeals are pending, the Arkansas Public School Choice Act and the Arkansas Department of Education rules governing the guidelines, procedures and enforcement of the Arkansas Public School Choice Act may once again be relied upon and followed as written,” state Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell wrote in a memo to superintendents.
Smith said that while educators hope the Arkansas General Assembly will amend the act when lawmakers meet in January and resolve the issues, the delay only complicates planning for schools and parents.
“We can’t accept new applications after July 1, but we can’t answer all the questions until after July 1,” he said, including space availability and faculty. “This is why school administrators earn their pay.”