Court: Ark. can't stop desegregation funds

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A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that Arkansas can't cut off funding for desegregation programs in Little Rock-area school districts without a separate hearing and judge's order.

The ruling from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals comes months after U.S. District Judge Brian Miller ordered an end to most of the payments, calling them counterproductive. The appeals court heard the case in September.

The state has been spending about $38 million per year to help finance magnet schools that help keep a racial balance in the Little Rock, North Little Rock and Pulaski County school districts, according to Wednesday's ruling, which keeps the money flowing until the matter is resolved in a separate court proceeding.

The state is required by a 1989 settlement to fund magnet schools, transfers between districts and other programs to support desegregation. Lawmakers have long wanted to end the payments, but the districts say they're still necessary.

Battles over school desegregation in Little Rock date back to 1957, when nine black children needed the protection of federal troops to integrate Central High School. Little Rock sued the state and its two neighboring districts in 1982. Two years later, a judge agreed that the districts hadn't done enough to help the city schools desegregate.

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