Date of Award

1970

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Bob Riley

Second Advisor

Dr. James C. Berryman

Third Advisor

Dr. James L. Ranchino

Abstract

For many years, the school elections in Little Rock have followed a traditional pattern of meager voter turnout . School elections, prior to the 1967 election, were mentioned briefly in newspaper articles. The platforms were of the same general nature year after year. They included taxes, school expansion, better facilities, and higher teacher salaries. Candidates seldom, if ever, campaigned publicly and actively. Posters were usually placed throughout the city. A few days prior to the election, newspaper ads with the candidates' pictures would appear in the Arkansas Democrat and the Arkansas Gazette. The 1967 school election was significant, because that election brought the subject of school desegregation before the public . The next election in 1968 added to the issue of desegregation a specific plan for desegregation of Little Rock Public Schools. This plan was placed on the ballot. Later in 1968, the Little Rock School District of Pulaski County Board of Directors adopted a geographic attendance zone plan to comply with a federal court order to establish a unitary nonracial school system. These issues have now become of interest and concern to the voting public in Little Rock.

The purpose of this study was to analyze school board elections for the years 1966, 1967, and 1968. The purpose of the analysis was to establish a relationship between the voters' reactions in the elections and (1) the issues involved, (2) local organizations and individuals stressing immediate desegregation, and (3) the probable result of any further desegregation plan brought to a vote.

To survey the elections, some knowledge of the background of Little Rock's school system, desegregation in the schools, and the ethnic composition of various voter wards was necessary. An explanation of the prerequisites of school board members and how they are elected, the laws which govern school board activity, and school board members duties and powers is discussed. Little Rock was one of the first school districts in the South to attempt an integrated public school system. A necessarily brief history of school desegregation in Little Rock public schools is included.

The type of information essential for this study was A Report to the Board of Directors of the Little Rock School District Little Rock, Arkansas, Desegregation Report Little Rock School District, a census tract map, a ward and precinct map, a census of Little Rock, and various newspaper articles which contained the platforms of the candidates and the issues involved in each election. Copies of the first two items mentioned, the report and the plan, were obtained from the Superintendent of Little Rock Public Schools, Floyd W. Parsons. The census tract map and the ward and precinct map were obtained from the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission. A special census taken of Little Rock in 1964 was obtained from the United States Bureau of the Census. Opinions of the elections and issues were obtained by questionnaire from the candidates for positions in the three elections. The questionnaire was the basic research tool used in this study. Another major source of information was the local news media.

The three school elections, 1966-1968, offer a sensitive indicator to the attitude of the people concerning the administration of their public schools. The school election of 1966, as usual created sparse interest. The next two elections, 1967 and 1968, contained potent issues. The 1967 election, with its Oregon Report as a suggested guide to school desegregation, created approximately 38 per cent more response of voters to the polls. The 1968 election, with a definite plan for desegregation, was widely publicized and discussed. There was an increase of approximately 52 per cent more votes cast than in the 1966 election. As for future plans for desegregation, most of the candidates felt that any plan submitted within five years would probably meet defeat at the hands of the voters. Until the average voter understands what a plan suggests, its logic and merits, and is assured that his rights too will be considered and protected this probably will be true.

 
 

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