MINERAL SPRINGS – A lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court – Eastern Division by Representative John Walker (D-Little Rock) on Monday, on the behalf of Curtis Turner, Superintendent for the Mineral Springs School District, and the Mineral Springs Board of Education over the alleged placement of a “fiscal distress” label upon the Mineral Springs School District by the Arkansas Department of Education, which has adversely affected the quality of the education students of the school district recieve, the suit claims.
The lawsuit alleges that due to the actions of the Arkansas Department of Education in 2004, “when then ADE Commissioner Tom Courtway ordered the consolidation of the Saratoga school district with the Mineral Springs school district due to an enrollment of less than 350 students, the action taken left the schools of Saratoga intact with no educational advantage to the students. The action taken by Courtway prompted “a flight of white students from the Mineral Springs School District due to race. The flight resulted in the combined enrollment of the district becoming majority African American.”The lawsuit further goes on to allege that the state takeover of schools with enrollments of 350 students or less was imposed on “districts which were mostly African American located in south, central, and east Arkansas. The ADE allegedly then combined the enrollment numbers with the concept of “fiscal distress”, which is defined as “a district with a declining balance determined to jeopardize the fiscal integrity of a school district.”
In addition to the main claim of the lawsuit, Hempstead County is also named as a defendant in the suit, which asks for state officials and Hempstead County to restore tax revenues rightfully due plaintiff Mineral Springs School District, due to the diversion of funds from the district for purposes of making false claims of fiscal distress. The suit states that “From 2003-04 to July 1, 2013, the defendant state and county officials cooperated in order to send the resources due Saratoga students to Hope School District and elsewhere, while allowing the Saratoga students to be sent to Mineral Springs without their full tax revenue.”
In an affidavit included within the filing, Superintendent Turner stated “In late July or early August (2013), I became concerned whether the district was getting its due tax money. I called the Howard County clerks office and learned where the districts property was located. I then called Hempstead County clerk Sandra Rogers to inform her of my belief that tax monies were not being properly directed to my district, in particular, the SWEPCO-Turk plant taxes. She called me back several days later and told me that I was correct and said that they would be making the changes as soon as possible.” He further went on to state in the affidavit that “I believe that Mineral Springs is entitled to receive all its revenues from the date they were due. This includes the “in lieu of taxes” amount, which have also been withheld from Mineral Springs to this date.”
The suit asks for an order declaring the defendants in the suit wrongly placed the designation of “fiscal distress” upon the Mineral Springs School District for the reasons of race or color to the detriment of the school district, as well as asks for the state defendants to reimburse the district for all funds due to MSSD between 2004 and the present. It also asks for the declaration that Hempstead County reimburse MSSD for all funds due it between 2005 and the present, and for an injunction that extends to the disbursement of funds due the district in the future.
U. S. District Judge D.P. Marshall Jr. will be presiding over the case. A hearing date has not been set as of yet, according to District Court records available online.