Majority Black Districts in Crittenden County Decide to Merge Despite Desegregation Clause

MARCH 17, 2004 - Posted at 7:41 a.m. CDT

LITTLE ROCK, AR - The Earle School Board has voted to annex the Crawfordsville School District.  But education officials are worried the proposed merger disrupts the state's desegregation efforts.

The new district would have about 1,000 students and would be 97 percent black.  The state attorney general's office must decide whether the merger would hamper or delay desegregation in another school district.

If Attorney General Mike Beebe cancels the annexation, it would force Crawfordsville into another district, probably Marion, a 3,500-student district that is 70 percent white.

Crawfordsville is halfway between the towns.

State Representative Linda Chesterfield of Little Rock helped write the law that ordered 57 small school districts to consolidate or annex into other districts.  She says the bill's desegregation clause was not meant to prevent mostly black or mostly white schools from merging.  She says Earle and Crawfordsville should be allowed to merge without state interference.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)