Monday, December 30, 2013

EDITORIAL >> Racial balance remains issue

Jacksonville could get its own school district as soon as this year, but desegregation monitoring could continue indefinitely.

The Pulaski County Special School District may have trouble getting its release from federal monitoring because several PCSSD schools have more black students enrolled than are allowed under the current racial guidelines, according to a recent report prepared by the Office of Desegregation Monitoring.

Even though district-wide numbers are within the required parameters, the racial imbalance of individual schools could affect U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall’s ruling on whether to declare PCSSD unitary, which is legalese for desegregated. Little Rock and North Little Rock have already been declared unitary, and their racial balance is no longer monitored.

But several schools in north Pulaski County have black-student enrollment that’s well above desegregation guidelines. For example, the black student populations at Jacksonville Middle School and Jacksonville High School are above the 60 percent maximum. North Pulaski High School is well under 60 percent black enrollment.

At the elementary level, where the maximum for black students is 50 percent, Warren Dupree and Murrell Taylor are above that. Adkins pre-K is right at 50 percent.

Jacksonville could split from PCSSD even while the district remains under federal supervision, but Judge Marshall could order continued monitoring even if he gives the go ahead for a separate Jacksonville district.

After more than 25 years, federal desegregation oversight has gone on long enough. Still, federal supervision would be a small price to pay if Jacksonville is finally allowed to leave the county district.