Jul 7, 2023 - Education

Arkansas AG undeterred by judge's decision on LEARNS Act

Photo: Courtesy of Attorney General Tim Griffin's office

Attorney General Tim Griffin has said a judge's recent decision to temporarily suspend the sweeping education reform known as the LEARNS Act won't stand in the way of the state prepping for the fall semester.

What he's saying: The "judgment does not order the Department of Education to stop the important work of ensuring that LEARNS is fully implemented by the start of the new school year," Griffin wrote in a statement shared with Axios.

Catch up quick: Pulaski County Circuit Judge Herb Wright last week ruled that a portion of the LEARNS Act "was not passed in accordance with the Arkansas Constitution."

  • The issue is whether legislators violated the state Constitution when they voted for the LEARNS Act but did not vote separately for its emergency clause.

Flashback: Wright issued a temporary restraining order on May 26 to keep the state from enforcing the act until Aug. 1.

  • The Arkansas Supreme Court on June 15 lifted that order but sent the case back to Wright.
  • Griffin said on June 30 he would appeal Wright's ruling to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

The other side: "This sort of open defiance of [an] Arkansas court's valid and binding order is unprecedented and alarming … It threatens the rule of law in Arkansas and undermines the authority of the judicial system," Ali Noland, a lawyer who represents parents in the Marvell-Elaine School District, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

What's next: Only 25 days remain before the law can take effect.

Meanwhile, Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Students (CAPES) is seeking a repeal of the LEARNS Act by referendum on the November 2024 ballot.

  • CAPES needs to collect nearly 55,000 signatures by July 31 from registered voters in at least 50 counties — a new law — to make it onto the ballot.
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