Forced school mergers continue

(May 25, 2004) — (Little Rock-AP) -- The state Education Board appears to be through approving plans for mergers of small school districts under a new state law. The board yesterday approved three merger plans and conditionally accepted three more pending O-Ks from federal officials. Plans involving the Crawfordsville, McNeil and Sparkman school districts have conditional approval from the board until they receive federal approval concerning desegregation issues. Plans for the Fountain Hill, Huttig and Union districts already have federal approval, said Scott Smith, a state Education Department lawyer. All six schools are under federal desegregation orders. The news wasn't welcomed by some in the Crawfordsville district. The board turned down Crawfordsville's proposal to merge with another mostly black district, Earle, on grounds that Crawfordsville students would NOT be better off academically. Instead, Crawfordsville was ordered to annex into the Marion district, which is 70 percent white.