Mixed reaction to Arkansas Supreme Court ruling on LEARNS Act



(The Center Square) – Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised the state Supreme Court’s decision Thursday to remove a restraining order on the LEARNS Act while a group opposing the law vowed to continue to fight it.

The omnibus bill signed into law by Sanders includes pay raises for teachers, literary coaches for the schools and “Educational Freedom Accounts” for parents to use to send their children to the school of their choice.

The Marvell-Elaine School District sued in Pulaski County Circuit Court last month over the state’s plans to contract with a management group to run the district. The district alleged that lawmakers did not take a separate vote on an emergency clause that would make the bill effective immediately. The district was joined by other plaintiffs, including Arkansas Citizens for Public Education and Students, known as CAPES, an organization that runs a website,

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled the plaintiffs failed to prove whether irreparable harm would occur in the absence of a restraining order and whether the case would be successful on its merits.

“We will not delve into the merits of the case further than is necessary to determine whether the circuit court exceeded its discretion in granting the injunction,” the justices said in their order.

Sanders called the decision a “win.”

“I’ve spoken with Education Secretary Oliva – he is immediately getting back to implementing the boldest, most transformational education reform in the country. For those playing political games with our children’s future, we will fight, and we will win,” the governor said in a Twitter post.

Attorney General Tim Griffin agreed.

“Marvell-Elaine will be able to welcome back students next year,” Griffin said in a statement. “And the Arkansas Department of Education can immediately resume planning to provide teachers higher salaries and maternity leave, make schools safer for our children, and enable the most vulnerable children to obtain the education they deserve.”

A Pulaski County Circuit Court hearing is still scheduled for Tuesday.

CAPES Chair Veronica McClane said the group is continuing its fight “so the people may be heard.”

“We disagree with the fact that there is no irreparable harm to MESD and CAPES,” McClane said. “We are disappointed the court didn’t examine the invalid emergency clause, and we are looking forward to our day in court for this important matter that impacts every public school child and employee in the state.”

The organization is gathering signatures in hopes of getting the repeal of the LEARNS Act on the November 2024 ballot.

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