Professor Wendy Parker explains the Arkansas school desegregation order in the Wall Street Journal

Photo of Professor Wendy Parker

Wendy Parker is nationally recognized for her innovative scholarship in the area of civil rights, focusing on school desegregation and remedies for racial and ethnic discrimination.

A federal judge has halted longtime state payments intended to help integrate three Arkansas school districts, including Little Rock, site of one of the most bitter desegregation fights in U.S. history.

U.S. District Court Judge Brian S. Miller, who oversees the districts’ federally ordered desegregation efforts, found the payments were “proving to be an impediment to true desegregation” by rewarding school systems that don’t meet their long-standing commitments.

Judge Miller’s recent rulings triggered protests by the school districts. But some lawmakers and state officials hailed the decision to shut off the payments, which totaled roughly $1 billion over the past two decades.

Lawyers for Little Rock and the other districts said the loss of as much as $70 million for the year that begins in August would cause budgetary chaos. The state payments amount to about 10% of the Little Rock budget and about 9% for each of the other two districts. The parties have until Friday to seek a stay of the order.

The Little Rock case is among the last of the landmark school desegregation battles, experts say, coming 57 years after the Supreme Court rejected the notion that schools could be racially separate but equal in Brown v. Board of Education.

Federal judges have declared hundreds of school districts desegregated in recent years. Such rulings end court supervision designed to make sure districts move to desegregate—but also can lead to a cutoff of state money to run magnet schools and other programs to integrate campuses.

“School desegregation litigation is on its very, very last legs,” said Wendy Parker, a professor at the Wake Forest University School of Law.

Read the full story here.