(The Center Square) – The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the lawmakers did enact an emergency clause when passing the LEARNS Act earlier this year.
A lawsuit filed by Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Students and others sought to keep the bill from becoming effective immediately. Pulaski County Circuit Court Judge Herbert Wright ruled in June the state did not pass the emergency clause.
The Arkansas Supreme Court disagreed with Wright and said the clause was passed in compliance with the state’s constitution.
“In reaching the opposite conclusion, the circuit court ignored the face of the record and instead relied on parol evidence––video recordings of House and Senate proceedings– –to find that the General Assembly’s process for adopting emergency clauses is constitutionally infirm,” the court said in its ruling provided by Griffin’s office. “As explained, the journals are the official record, and it was erroneous for the circuit court to look to parol evidence in reaching its decision.”
Despite the bill becoming effective Aug. 1 without the emergency clause, Attorney General Tim Griffin pressed the Arkansas Supreme Court for a ruling, saying the lower court’s decision could jeopardize other legislation passed with the emergency clause.
“This is a win for the people of Arkansas,” Griffin said in a statement. “The Arkansas Supreme Court confirmed that the General Assembly’s long-established procedure for adopting emergency clauses is valid and not subject to challenge. This ruling dismisses the lawsuit challenging LEARNS and confirms that all similar challenges fail as a matter of law and must be thrown out.”
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders praised the decision.
“Today’s Supreme Court ruling in favor of the LEARNS Act is a historic victory for Arkansas parents, teachers, and students, and a crushing defeat for the partisan extremists who tried to undermine our kids’ futures,” Sanders said in a statement. “My administration will continue to implement our transformational reforms which empower parents to choose the best school for their family, prohibit indoctrination, raise teacher pay from one of the lowest to one of the best in the nation, and invest in pre-k, early literacy, and career and technical education so every Arkansan can find a good job in their community.”