Judge halts enforcement of LEARNS Act, state appeals

File image of classroom
File image of classroom(Credit: Pixabay via MGN)
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 5:04 PM CDT
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) – A Pulaski County Circuit Judge has issued a restraining order preventing the Arkansas LEARNS Act from being enforced, for now.

Judge Herbert Wright issued the restraining order in an 11-page ruling Friday, May 26, following a lawsuit filed by concerned parents and Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Students.

The lawsuit states that because the act had an emergency clause, that was not voted on separately from the bill, Arkansas LEARNS is not yet state law.

In his ruling, Judge Wright said the “Plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, given that the emergency clause of the Arkansas LEARNS Act was not passed with a necessary separate roll-call vote as is required.”

Lawmakers in the House and Senate said the way they recorded an emergency clause while voting on the bill is in line with the state constitution requiring emergency clauses be voted on separately.

Some of the parents who were part of the lawsuit were from the Marvell-Elaine School District, which the state took over in April and gave control over to Friendship Education Foundation. The agreement is allowed under the LEARNS Act.

As part of his ruling, Judge Wright restricted the state from entering into any agreement between the district and the Foundation and said the state cannot terminate or not renew employees within the Marvell-Elaine School District.

Governor Sarah Huckabee-Sanders issued a statement through her communications director calling the lawsuit “absurd.”

“It is sad that the radical left is playing political games with children’s futures,” the statement said. “We are focused on making sure that every kid in Arkansas has access to a quality education, teachers have the pay raises they deserve, and parents are empowered. We expect to be vindicated at the Supreme Court and I’m confident that the AG will be able to vigorously defend it.”

Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffith appealed the judge’s ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court within hours of it being issued.