(The Center Square) - An Pulaski County Circuit Court judge has suspended the Arkansas LEARNS Act until a hearing can be held to determine if lawmakers erred by not adding an emergency clause to the bill that made it effective immediately.
A group of parents and the Citizens for Arkansas Public Education and Students are suing the Arkansas Board of Education over the board's decision to transfer management of the Marvell-Elaine School District to a charter-school management company.
The plaintiffs contend the transfer is invalid because lawmakers did not vote separately on an emergency clause for the LEARNS bill that would make the bill effective immediately.
Circuit Court Judge Herbert T. Wright scheduled a hearing for June 20 in an order issued Friday afternoon, saying in his order that the "plaintiffs have demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, given that the emergency clause in the Arkansas LEARNS Act was not passed with the necessary separate roll-call vote that is required in Article 5, Section 1 of the Constitution of the State of Arkansas."
The nearly $300 million omnibus bill would provide "Educational Freedom Accounts" for all students by the 2025-2026 school year. The bill also raises all teacher salaries to a minimum of $50,000.
Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders said called the lawsuit "absurd" and said the state will appeal immediately.
"It’s sad the radical left is playing political games with children’s futures," the governor said in a Twitter post. "We are focused on making sure that every kid in AR 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."