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LEARNS challenge in the hands of the Arkansas Supreme Court

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(The Center Square) – Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin is asking the state’s Supreme Court to immediately stay a lower court order that suspends the implementation of the LEARNS Act.

Circuit Court Judge Herbert T. Wright suspended implementation of the law until a June 20 hearing. At issue is whether or not lawmakers should have taken a separate vote on the emergency clause that makes the act effective on the governor’s signature.

The vote on the bill and the emergency clause were taken simultaneously, but that has been the practice for decades, Griffin said in his motion.

“Members knew they were voting both ‘[t]o create the LEARNS Act’ and to ‘declare an emergency,'” he said.

The suspension is harming Arkansas schools, the attorney general said.

“Consequently, while LEARNS will still be law on August 1, the order (unless this Court blocks it) means that until then, the State may not continue school safety or human trafficking training, hire tutors, fund 12-week maternity leave or teacher raises, or compose working groups for the ‘numerous’ necessary rules,” Griffin said in the motion. “That denies benefits to students and teachers now and means that other provisions will not be up and running in time for this school year.”

Griffin said the suspension also affects the Marvell-Elaine School District, a plaintiff in the motion. Parents in the district filed the suit to keep it from becoming a charter school district under the supervision of the Friendship Education Foundation of Arkansas after the State Board of Education approved the change.

“[T]o properly start school” this August, Marvell-Elaine needs “curriculum, professional training, leadership coaching, special education, food service, transportation, custodial, board governance, and instructional support,” Griffin said. “So Friendship was interviewing teachers and staff. But under the circuit court’s order, it can’t. With much work to be done, even a one-month delay might make it “impossible for the school to begin on time.”

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