Adequacy Compliance Issue Raised in Arkansas Appeal

in NEWS FROM THE ACCESS NETWORK

Arkansas’ Act 57, enacted in 2007 in the wake of the Arkansas Supreme Court’s adequacy ruling in Lake View School District, No. 25 v. Huckabee,  requires the State to undertake a series of actions each year to evaluate “whether a substantially equal opportunity for an adequate education is being afforded to Arkansas students.”  In 2010, the Deer/ Mt. Judea school district, a small rural district, filed a law suit alleging that the state had not complied with Act 57 since 2007. They claim that the State knows that small remote schools are underfunded, but rather than providing them the additional funding they need, the State has aggressively sought to close them without considering whether their students will be denied a substantially equal opportunity for an adequate education due to excessive transportation time. Plaintiffs also claim that since the Arkansas Supreme Court issued its Lake View mandate, the State has funded education ”based upon what funds were available – not by what was needed,” as required by Act 57.

In April, the Circuit Court issued a decision dismissing the case on the grounds of “res judicata.” It held that the plaintiff school district was a member of the class covered by the Lake View litigation and that litigation disposed of all of the issues plaintiff now raises. The school district has appealed to the Arkansas Supreme Court, see DMJ Opening Brief rev 2011-08-12, arguing that since its complaint speaks only of state actions and inactions that have occurred since the Lake View decision was issued, that ruling should not preclude proceeding with the present action.

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